George Ambler http://www.georgeambler.com Sat, 28 Feb 2015 19:20:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Take the Survey and Help Me Improve http://www.georgeambler.com/take-survey-help-improve/ http://www.georgeambler.com/take-survey-help-improve/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2015 09:38:09 +0000 http://www.georgeambler.com/?p=2767 I need your help, and it will only take 3 minutes. Tell me what you like (or don’t like) about my blog. In taking part you’ll help me to know what’s important to you; and this’ll help me in deciding what to offer you and other readers in the future. The survey is short, anonymous, and […]

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2015 Reader Survey

I need your help, and it will only take 3 minutes. Tell me what you like (or don’t like) about my blog.

In taking part you’ll help me to know what’s important to you; and this’ll help me in deciding what to offer you and other readers in the future.

The survey is short, anonymous, and will take less than 3 minutes.

 

Yes, I’d love to help you out. Take me to the survey!

 

Thanks in advance for your help. I appreciate it.

See you on my blog again soon.

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Rekindle Your Leadership with Rookie Smarts http://www.georgeambler.com/rekindle-leadership-rookie-smarts/ http://www.georgeambler.com/rekindle-leadership-rookie-smarts/#respond Fri, 30 Jan 2015 09:28:45 +0000 http://www.georgeambler.com/?p=2742 Leading successfully in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world demands rapid learning. As Jack Welch observed “an organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” Learning under conditions of uncertainty is a topic addressed in the book “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New […]

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An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. - Jack Welch

Leading successfully in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world demands rapid learning. As Jack Welch observed “an organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.

Learning under conditions of uncertainty is a topic addressed in the book “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work” by Liz Wiseman which describes a study that explored how experienced versus inexperienced people learn and tackle problems.

Wiseman’s research provides fascinating insights into how leaders can improve their learning in a VUCA world.

Why Rookie Smarts Matters

So what do we mean by the term rookie?  A rookie is someone who is new to something. Wiseman writes, “rookie smarts aren’t defined by age or experience; it is a state of mind.” It is this rookie mindset that makes all the difference when learning in conditions of uncertainty.

It turns out that rookies approach their work in very different ways compared to those with experience. The ways that rookies learn makes a huge difference, Wiseman’s research found that rookies often outperform their more experience peers, especially when work demands innovation.

A VUCA world demands leaders who think less like an experts and more like a rookies.

  • Leaders who are constantly learning, learning about what’s happening, what’s new and what’s possible.
  • Leaders who can operate as rookies without the need to protect the status quo.
  • Leaders who are humble, who have an open mind and are not afraid of asking difficult questions.
  • Leader who push the limits of what is possible.
  • Leaders who constantly seek out the advice and guidance from other, to learn and innovate.

Contrast these rookies with the thinking and actions of leaders who see themselves as experts.

  • Expert leaders stop asking questions.
  • Expert leaders do not seek feedback.
  • Expert leaders are internally focused.
  • Expert leaders spend their time telling people what they know.
  • Expert leaders spend their time giving advice and answering questions.
  • Expert leaders are focused on protecting the status quo and what they know to be true about the world.
  • Expert leaders are less likely to venture into the unknown and to blaze new trails.

Leading from an expert mindset severely limits your ability to adapt to change and embrace new ways of doing things.

Elon Musk the Ultimate Rookie Leader

“I read a lot of books and talked to lots of people” – Elon Musk

A great rookie leader is South African born serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, Wikipedia describes him as follows “the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity. He is the founder of SpaceX and a cofounder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and Zip2. He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.

What is fascinating about the companies Musk has founded is that each is in a completely different industry. Before starting these companies Musk was by no means an expert in any of these businesses, having never worked for NASA, Boeing a bank or a car manufacturer. He is however an expert learner, he has rookie smarts.

“Jim Cantrell, who was an aerospace consultant at the time, became SpaceX’s first VP of business development and Musk’s industry mentor when the company launched in 2002. He says that Musk literally taught himself rocket science by reading textbooks and talking to industry heavyweights.” – Richard Feloni, Former SpaceX Exec Explains How Elon Musk Taught Himself Rocket Science

Leaders who adopt a learning mindset are better positioned to lead successfully in a VUCA world. These leaders think of themselves as students of their respective industries and disciplines. They have learnt to develop their rookie smarts, by adopting a rookie mindset and learning approach. Let us explore the rookie mindset in more detail.

Rookies Explore New Possibilities

“Newcomers, without the weight of knowledge, ritual, and rule to constrain their thinking, often ask questions that cut to the core of an issue. But the longer we live with a problem, the less likely we are to think we can do anything about it.” – Liz Wiseman, “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work

Rookies are not burdened by past success or by an economic and social commitment to the status quo. Rookies don’t have any preconceived ideas about how things should work formed by past experience. This means rookies are much more open to new possibilities, new thinking and new ideas. Rookies see the world with fresh eyes, and are eager to venture out into the unknown. Rookies want to build something new and different, they want to make their mark. Rookies are keen to explore, to fail and to learn. Experienced veterans? Not so much.

Wiseman’s study found that veterans – the more experienced managers – were twice as likely to seek certainty and to default to past behaviour. Veterans hold onto what is safe, they don’t venture into the unknown. Veterans are too quick to settle for what is easy and comfortable.

The bottom line is that experience tends to creates blind spots that causes you to miss opportunities, rationalise away weak signals that contradict your current worldview.

The Lesson for Leaders

“Stay Hungry; Stay Foolish.” – Steve Jobs

Don’t become a victim of your past success. Seek out new possibilities and new ways of doing things. Stay curious, humble and open. Actively seek out views and opinions that differ from your own. Look for ideas that go against what you know to be true. Give these alternative perspectives serious consideration.

Toss out your trusted playbook of industry norms and best practice, begin explore and create your next practice.

Rookies Seek Help and Ask Questions

“By reaching out to others experts, inexperienced people, on average, will bring five times the level of expertise to a problem than a single experienced person does.” – Liz Wiseman, “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work

Comfortable in their understanding as to what it takes to succeed, veterans stop asking questions and spend a lot less time seeking advice and guidance. Veterans become over-confident, if not careful arrogant, only seeing that which supports their current thinking. They surround themselves with like-minded people who serve to confirm their existing worldview. They reject experts and advisors that threaten to disrupt their worldview. Compare this thinking this with how rookies approach their work.

Wiseman’s study found that “rookies are four times more likely than veterans to ask for help.” Not only are rookies more likely to ask for help “rookies seek out expertise 40 percent more often than experienced professionals.” and “rookies reach out to five times more experts than veterans do”.

Rookies actively seek help and listen to advice from a broad spectrum of advisors and experts.

The Lesson for Leaders

“It is impossible to begin to learn what one thinks one already knows.” – Epictetus

Reject the idea that you as the leader must have all the answers. Instead start with the right set of questions. Be a leader who is asking questions, rather than a leader who is providing answers.

When facing a problem or challenge. Pause. Reach out to five experts. Ask questions. Take time to listen and dig deep. Read widely. Network with peers in your industry. Engage.

The Right Mindset for the Right Job

Whilst a rookie mindset has benefits, there are times when you need to be the veteran leader. Leaders like Elon Musk have learnt to leverage their rookie smarts. They are able to switch between the two modes of thinking and acting. They know when they need to lean on their experience as guide and they know when they need to step back and take on the role of the rookie.

In times of uncertainty and in situations that demand innovation the rookie mindset is the leader’s tool of choice. When innovation is required a rookie mindset really matters. In the VUCA world of today the demand for experienced veterans is waning. What is needed are more smart rookies to help navigate a way forward.

 

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Leaders Need a Daily Reading Habit http://www.georgeambler.com/leaders-need-daily-reading-habit/ http://www.georgeambler.com/leaders-need-daily-reading-habit/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 19:24:04 +0000 http://www.georgeambler.com/?p=2710 It’s frequently said that those who lead, read. Research has shown that reading keeps leaders smart, creative and social. For those who want to lead, reading is not a nice to have or a luxury, reading is a habit successful leaders consider critical to their success. “In my whole life, I have known no wise people […]

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“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” - Harry S. Truman

It’s frequently said that those who lead, read. Research has shown that reading keeps leaders smart, creative and social. For those who want to lead, reading is not a nice to have or a luxury, reading is a habit successful leaders consider critical to their success.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time – none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren(Buffett) reads – at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out”.” – Charles T. Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger

The conviction as to the importance of reading for leaders is not unique to billionaire Charles Munger. Tom Peters made the following comment in an interview with McKinsey Quarterly:

“I was at a dinner party recently with a guy who’s probably one of the top ten finance people in the world. At one point he said, “Do you know what the biggest problem is with big-company CEOs? They don’t read enough.” – Tom Peters, Tom Peters on leading the 21st-century organization

As a leader if you’re not reading daily don’t be surprised if you find yourself falling behind your peers!

6 Steps to a Daily Reading Habit

Reading is a habit and like any other habit it needs to be purposefully developed.

1. Set an Annual Reading Goal

As with most habits, change begins with goal. You set goals for your exercise routine, you set goals for how much weight you want to lose, reading is no different.

The first step is to set a goal for the number of books you would like to read this year. You could go big and decide to read 52 books this year – one book a week. Or you could decide to take it more slowly and read two books a month – one book every two weeks. For example Mark Zuckerberg has set himself a reading goal.

“My challenge for 2015 is to read a new book every other week – with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” – Mark Zuckerberg

If you want to follow along with Mark’s challenge you can do so on the Facebook page A Year of Books.

So take some time to set a goal for the number of books you will read this year.

2. Maintain a Reading List

A powerful way to sustain your reading habit is to keep a reading list. This is a list of all the books you want to read. Some people keep this list in a journal, others as part of their to do list, you can find mine here.

Whenever you come across an interesting book or a recommendation from a friend, add the book to your reading list. It is also useful to get into that habit of asking others what they are reading from time to time. Then add their suggestions to your list for consideration.

In this way you never run out of books to read. Knowing that you have a list of books waiting to be read, helps to maintain your reading habit. Use your book list and purchase a bunch of books then keep them close at hand. The minute you finish a book, pickup a new one and start reading. Don’t break the cycle. Keep reading.

Lastly, share the great books you have read with others so they can learn and grow. Here are some examples of reading lists that others have shared.

What are the books on your reading list? Which of the books from the above lists do you need to add to your reading list?

3. Read Broadly. Read Widely.

Diversify and add variety to your reading. Reading too much non-fiction or in one specific genre, such as history, business or psychology, can get boring.

All of us need to increase our reading diversity. Whilst the benefits of reading non-fiction are clear, helping to increase your knowledge and skills. For example research has found that reading fiction increases your social and communication skills.

When leaders read widely they gain insight from a broad range of topics. This broad set of knowledge provides the raw material for creative insight. Many of breakthrough ideas have come as the result of combining knowledge from unrelated fields.

Given this you should consider reading something completely different from time to time. Consider books on topics and genres you’d not naturally read. Books on philosophy, biographies, science, history, psychology, technology, business or sociology. Keep your reading broad and interesting.

4. Schedule a Daily Reading Time

Schedule a daily reading time in your calendar. If you want to develop a reading habit, you need to make the time. Time is not like money, which you can save. Either you use it or you lose it. So block off reading time in your calendar. Make reading part of your daily routine.

Commit to read 60 minutes every day. There are two ways you can schedule your reading time. The first is to schedule one 60 minutes session each day. Or you can break your reading time into three 20 minute sessions, each at different times throughout the day. Whatever approach you choose, make a commitment to read daily. Non-negotiable. No exceptions. No excuses.

5. Reduce Television and the Internet

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx

Struggling to schedule time for your reading? Consider cutting down on the time spent watching TV, browsing the internet and reading the news. TV and the internet consume a huge amount of time, time that is better spent reading books. Whilst the internet has some good articles, books are generally of a higher quality. Given this you’re going to learn a whole lot more from a books, than browsing the internet.

6. Stop Reading a Crappy Book After 50 Pages

Life is too short to read crappy books. To prevent wasting your time on crappy books, adopt the 50 page rule. If a book hasn’t caught your attention after 50 pages, the chances are neither will the next 50 pages. The solution? Stop reading! Don’t be afraid to quit bad books.

“If I am not marking up a book very quickly, I put it aside very quickly!” – John Maxwell

With the huge number of great books available at the click of a button it make no sense to read an a crappy book. Stop it!

Bottom Line: Developing a reading habit isn’t a big secret. It comes down to choices. The question becomes “will you make time to read?” The same way you make time to eat, shower and exercise.

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Reading Keeps Leaders Smart, Creative and Social http://www.georgeambler.com/reading-keeps-leaders-smart-creative-social/ http://www.georgeambler.com/reading-keeps-leaders-smart-creative-social/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 09:30:43 +0000 http://www.georgeambler.com/?p=2696 You and I are spending more and more time on our digital devices and watching TV. Studies suggest that Britons spend more time on tech than asleep, Americans will spend more time on digital devices than watching TV , whilst the average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. All these activities may be entertaining, […]

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“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled 'This could change your life.'” - Helen Exley

You and I are spending more and more time on our digital devices and watching TV. Studies suggest that Britons spend more time on tech than asleep, Americans will spend more time on digital devices than watching TV , whilst the average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. All these activities may be entertaining, but they do little to improve your leadership ability.

Considering these findings “when was the last time you read a book?

If you are one of the many who don’t have a reading habit you are missing out. Reading is a great way of improving your leadership ability.

1. Reading Makes You Smarter

Research has shown that reading improves your cognitive ability the most obvious reason is that reading improves your vocabulary and knowledge. This improve your abstract reasoning and problem solving ability.

Reading is one of the quickest ways of gaining new knowledge, information and insights. And the more knowledge you have the better equipped you are to tackle the challenges as they come your way.

2. Reading Improves Your Emotional Intelligence

Reading improves a leaders communication and social skills. Especially reading fiction which research has found to improve your empathy – “when people read fiction, and they are emotionally transported into the story, they become more empathic.

Improved communication ability and empathy helps leaders better understand others. Getting an understanding as to what motivates other, inspires them improves a leaders ability to influence and persuade others.

3. Reading Keeps Your Brain Healthy

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison

Reading exercises the brain’s connectivity and function and improves concentration and focus.

“Just like muscles, the brain benefits from a good workout. And reading is more neurobiologically demanding than processing images or speech.” – Lauren Duzbow, Watch This. No. Read It!

These are big benefits when it comes to keeping your brain performing as you age. Research has shown that reading helps fight off Alzheimer’s disease and helps your brain fight the effects of ageing.

4. Reading Improves Your Creativity

Reading changes your worldview and thereby improving your creativity. As reading challenges your thinking and helps you see the world from a different perspective.

Reading shapes your worldview, helping you think in more diverse ways, this increases the likelihood that you come up with new and novel solutions to problems.

5. Reading Helps You to Learn from the Mistakes of Others

Whilst successful leaders learn from their personal experiences they also take time to learn from the experiences of others.

“Employ your time in improving yourselves by other men’s documents, so you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.” – Socrates

One of the best ways to learn from others is by reading non-fiction – especially biographies. Whilst leader can and do learn from their own life experiences, but they don’t have the time to make all the mistakes themselves so they need to learn as much as they can from the experiences of others. Books are one of the quickest and most rewarding way to learn from the experiences and mistakes of others.

Reading biographies provide insight into the struggles, challenges and victories of great men and woman of history. They encourage and inspire us to strive to make a bigger impact on our world. Their stories give us the courage to act and do more with our lives.

Successful leaders know the benefits of reading, so they make it a daily habit.

Have you developed a daily reading habit?

 

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Research Finds Leadership Quality is Barely Improving http://www.georgeambler.com/research-finds-leadership-quality-barely-improving/ http://www.georgeambler.com/research-finds-leadership-quality-barely-improving/#respond Sat, 10 Jan 2015 14:14:32 +0000 http://www.georgeambler.com/?p=2641 Recent leadership research has revealed a disturbing trend, the quality of leaders is barely improving. This is the conclusion of two independent research studies. The World Economic Forum (WEF) report titled “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015” (pdf) and Development Dimensions International (DDI) report titled “Global Leadership Forecast 2014 | 2015”. The Challenges of a VUCA […]

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Recent leadership research has revealed a disturbing trend, the quality of leaders is barely improving. This is the conclusion of two independent research studies. The World Economic Forum (WEF) report titled “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015” (pdf) and Development Dimensions International (DDI) report titled “Global Leadership Forecast 2014 | 2015”.

The Challenges of a VUCA World Begin to Bite

A VUCA world is one that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The World Economic Forum (WEF) report “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015” and the “Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015” both recognise the challenges a VUCA world places on leaders.

A VUCA world increases the demand for quality leadership. Facing an increasingly VUCA world, society needs strong leaders more than ever. It’s concerning that in such times the quality of leadership is barley improving.

Let’s look these research findings in more detail.

Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 Findings

The “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015” published by the World Economic forum, surveyed 1,767 experts about the major trends likely to keep leaders awake at night during 2015.

Lack of leadership came third among the global issues listed, behind deepening income inequality and persistent jobless growth.

is-there-a-leadership-crisis-in-the-world

The Global Leadership Crisis. Source: WEF, Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015

86% of the respondents strongly agree the world is facing a ‘leadership crisis’ (Share on Twitter)

Some of the findings relating to the lack of leadership:

  • 86% of the respondents strongly agree the world is facing a ‘leadership crisis’.
  • 55% of respondents said they do not trust government to be transparent and accountable.
  • 58% of respondents had concerns that religious leaders would abuse their positions.
  • Four out of the five regions prioritised training, coaching and mentoring as the best way to develop tomorrow’s leaders.
  • African respondents also highlighted a need to involve youth more strongly in leadership development.
Which sector is most trusted for its leadership? Source: WEF, Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015

Which sector is most trusted for its leadership? Source: WEF, Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015

Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 Findings

The “Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015” was recently published as a joint effort of Development Dimensions International (DDI) and The Conference Board. The research is based on survey responses from 13,124 leaders; 1,528 global human resource executives; and 2,031 participating organisations.

15% of organisations rated their future bench strength as strong. (Share on Twitter)

The Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 findings:

  • 25% of organisations report their leaders are not VUCA-capable.
  • The top 20% of organisations performing well financially are three times more likely to have VUCA-capable leaders than the bottom 20 percent.
  • 15% of organisations rated their future bench strength as strong.
  • One in three organisations are focused on developing their leaders’ ability to foster innovation
  • One in five is emphasising development in global leadership.

Leader Quality is Barely Improving

Quality of Leadership over Three Global Benchmarking Studies

Quality of Leadership over Three Global Benchmarking Studies. Source: DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015

25% of organisations report their leaders are not VUCA-capable. (Share on Twitter)

Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015 findings reveals a lack of improvement in the quality of leaders over the past three years. The reasons seems to be due to ineffective leadership development.

“leadership development efforts have stalled. . . only 37 percent of leaders in the current study rated their organization’s leadership development program as effective, indicating no improvement over the past seven years.”

Only one in four organizations evaluated their overall leader quality as high. (Share on Twitter)

Recommendations

What should leaders be doing as a result of these findings? Here are some recommendations:

  • If you don’t already have a robust leadership development program in place. Get one started as soon as possible.
  • Review the effectiveness of your existing leadership training and development.
  • Assess the extent to which you are developing the skills needed to lead effectively in a VUCA world.
  • Expand your focus to included the development of leadership skills across all levels, from executives to frontline employees.
  • Get clear on what you’re going to focus on in your personal leadership development journey.

What are your top 3 leadership development goals for the next 90 days?

Share them in the comments below.

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