This month Tony offered me the perfect gift! An incredible new book by Gloria Flores – Learning to Learn and the Navigation of Moods: The Meta-Skill for the Acquisition of Skills.
If I could re-language the gift of this book in common speak – discover and overcome the habits that undermine you as a leader and learner. Or even a live-er (someone living life) This is a must-read. Two words – download now!
In Gloria’s opening Chapters she takes the reader on a journey through some of the assessments (judgements, stories and conclusions) we hold about ourselves and others in relation to the world that can only be described as profound and confronting. I experienced these at two levels – in relation to the leaders we work with and better still in relation to myself.
In relation to the leaders we work with, I have often said that the higher we go in organisations, the more challenging it is to work with the most senior leaders. These leaders are typically highly ‘successful’ in organisational terms, but for many, the mindset and behaviours that brought them this level of success are the very things that are eroding outcomes in more modern times. That’s why we’re brought in. I have explored this for some time. For C-level clients we have far more influence in the transformational role of coach and mentor where we can embark on the kind of journey and dialogues required to cultivate new habits and behaviours. And it’s often a private gig – rather than one revealed in the public view. I have wondered why and why this format is preferred.
I have had CEO’s say no to group dialogues or request a pre-session ahead of group work so they know what’s coming. I have had them decline group training for fear of losing face. I’ve had them opt in to a public course rather than participate with peers. I have had them sit with folded arms, playing on i-pads. I have had them identify that they’ve ‘read the book’ they ‘get it’ and the practical application of it is not really required – when what we work with, is all in the doing!
Gloria has shed some light on these observations… She answered this question in a way that confirmed what I have noticed for almost two decades in practice and this quote by Chris Argyris backs it up. ‘In “Teaching Smart People How to Learn,” Chris Argyris writes that smart people are often the worst learners. Perhaps, he speculates, “… because many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure” (Harvard Business Review May-June 1991). Consequently, when they are criticized or don’t do well in something, they get embarrassed and defensive, and tend to blame others and shut down. They are not open to learning. (p.6)’
And behind being ‘not such a great learner’ we have seen the things Gloria describes – moods that close others down, and assessments that limit the leader’s capacity to lead. Gloria then poses a series of assessments that seem like common truths in a corporate existence, but whose very adoption generates unhelpful moods and behaviours – ones that diminish possibilities for leaders and the people they lead. Here’s a taste: