Scott Goldner, Director of Individual at The DO School, reflects on how over the past 25 years in leadership and training he’s learned that the key ingredient of effective leadership is culture – particularly a culture of quality collaboration and ongoing learning.
Reflecting on my experiences working with global and local leaders across sectors and functions, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same… the more they change again.
The best organizations have a culture of quality collaboration and ongoing learning and development that is led, modelled and curated by the top leaders. With over 25 years’ experience being both a leader and in leadership training, I have been developing my own leadership skills in the context of this culture and supporting others to do so for some time. Building and maintaining such a culture is not easy, but it is certainly not new.
A changing landscape for collaboration
However, what is new and what I find really exciting are the developments in our understanding of what enables quality collaboration and in the increasing range of tools available for collaboration (both on and offline). Parallel to this improvement in our capabilities for quality collaboration across functions, countries, and roles is the shifting nature of peoples’ development and learning needs and interests, along with an increase in the available opportunities for learning. I think that the leaders who can connect these developments and shifts effectively will have the most quality collaboration and innovation in their organizations.
What we learn as part of our own growth and maturity as individuals, we see smart organizations and institutions learning also – that we should not try to replicate someone else, but rather try to become our best, most authentic true selves. What I see some of our partners doing (especially large, legacy corporations) is identifying the aspects of their history and identity to hold on to as they seek to increase innovation. Not every company can do what Google does or has the same culture that the newest start-up has – and this is fine! However, all companies need to be more innovative in order to survive and thrive and the best way to enable innovation in a way that feels authentic is through having a culture of quality collaboration. You want to embrace disruption, but you do not need to disrupt what is core and essential to your DNA.
In my experience, effective collaboration can be seen, felt, and measured:
- top leaders effectively collaborate – reflecting on, sharing and modelling their experiences;
- people bring their true selves to allow for authentic and open exchange;
- everyone can truly share to minimize distractions and maximize ideas;
- success is measured in three ways – project results, individual well-being and team process (correlation between collaboration and impact).
Developing new mindsets
According to the World Economic Forum, at least 54% of employees will need to re-skill or up-skill to meet future demands. Additionally, what we hear from our partners is that their people will need not only new skills, but new mindsets – or attitudes and ways of thinking. The good news is that new skills and mindsets can be learned and developed. In our view, this is done in four steps:
- Practice new mindsets: At The DO School, we have developed 12 mindsets for innovation that can be used to develop ‘mindset muscles’ for practice.
- Develop desired mindsets: This is best done through a cycle of reflection, feedback, coaching and assessment.
- Become networked: Get connected to diverse trends and ideas.
- Manage ongoing learning: Develop a rich and living learning portfolio.
Why waste time proving over and over how great you are when you could be getting better?
Quality leadership attributes
Effective and agile leadership is able to listen through all the noise and connect to the gold out there and within their own companies to develop an ecosystem for development and learning that enables staff to plug into development opportunities, new ideas, and expertise inside and outside the organization. More concretely, they enable the following:
- staff has access to impactful online, offline and hybrid learning experiences and development opportunities that meet their current and future needs and interests;
- people self-manage their own learning portfolio;
- people not only learn, but can also share their expertise, mentor others and/or facilitate learning experiences themselves;
- people are connected with new trends, ideas, knowledge, skills, and mindsets through interactions with internal and external experts, thought leaders and entrepreneurs;
- the organization collects and analyzes development and learning data to continually improve the quality of development opportunities, to capture and prepare for emerging trends and internal needs, and to share as thought leaders externally.
This ecosystem helps lead to a vibrant culture of proactive learning and sharing that enables people to more easily embrace change and transformation and to better collaborate and innovate at all levels. I am thrilled that at The DO School, I have the opportunity to work with partners to develop learning ecosystems that will help them to build a culture of quality collaboration and ongoing learning and development and become not only truly innovative companies, but places where people (not robots) cannot wait to come to work.