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    Jun 12, 2015    |

Type and Leadership: The need for More

I recently did a Master Class dedicated to helping practitioners develop leaders. I always like to begin these programs by asking my participants what they hoped to get out of the class; that is, when they signed up, what insights they hoped to glean from our time together to qualify the day as a success. (I do have SF preferences, after all). One lady, after introducing herself, explained that in addition to the core topic at hand, she was even more interested to know why – after using the MBTI® tool for several years in several industries – so many leaders fail to actually apply the insights they’ve discussed. In other words, why so many coaching sessions or workshops fall short of inspiring long-term behavioral change. She explained that even amongst eager leaders (those who are coachable and willing to change), she’s seen a lack of application following type training. “So what can we do?” She asked.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the phenomenon of insight decay; wherein if there is a lack of action planning and behavioural change following the workshop, then all the insights in the world will eventually lose meaning and practicality (Click here for that blog post). In the case of leadership, this continues to be an unfortunate trend and one which warrants attention if we are to feel confident that the those MBTI conversations will be truly valuable for individuals in the short and long-term. The key is that as practitioners, we must remember that the MBTI and type frameworks there-in are only meant to START the conversation, not end one. In order for the lessons to take shape in the form of the behaviour, there needs to be individual commitment, concise action plans, as well as organizational support going forward.

Tips for Ensuring Change and Preserving Value:

1. Establish that the leader is coachable.
According to Hogan (2015), some individuals simply are not coachable. In order for someone to interpret, receive and apply feedback as it is intended, the individual needs to demonstrate certain characteristics which include a sense of personal accountability and responsibility for one’s actions and outcomes, and a real commitment to change. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Change is difficult, and without a real sense of commitment and tenacity, success and long-term gains become less realistic.

2. Establish real measures of success that reflect organizational goals.
As put forward by studies by Ready and Conger (2003), and Hanson (2012) many leadership development programs fail due to what they call ‘Make-Believe Metrics’. In other words, many practitioners – and organizations alike- make the mistake of thinking that activity alone equates to success: that by having the workshop or conversation, leaders automatically improve and value is established. More workshops mean more success! Right? Well, no. In reality, unless leaders have real development goals and behavioral action plans that align with broader strategic goals, there is no litmus for improvement and efforts go wasted. Make sure you and the leader establish what is expected and needed from them as a part of the larger context. Then, gear the conversation around how those expectations and goals can be satisfied through behaviour, and how those goals will be measured going forward.

3. Have them commit to an Action Plan.
“A Plan without action is not a Plan. It’s a speech”. – T Boone Pickens.
Make sure the Action Plan at the end of each and every discussion or workshop is concise, specific, attainable and perhaps most importantly, specific to context and organization (as mentioned above). Creating an action plan is how you, as a practitioner or coach, bridge the “What” of insight to the “So What” and”Now what” of action.

4. Find out whether organizational resources exist to promote continuous development.

Unfortunately, many organizations encourage their leaders to engage in professional development in the absence of any resources to support them in this journey. In actuality, the individual and their own introspection and self-work is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. In order for real and valuable change to occur, the organization (and the powers that be within it) need to make resources available to encourage continuous growth. These can include more formalized feedback (ie. real observations of behaviour over and above type and preferences), opportunities to apply what they have learned (broader roles, new projects), and continuous follow-up to monitor progress (Ongoing check-ins and coaching sessions to cultivate learning for example). After all in most cases, leaders have leaders too, and someone must keep them accountable to do what they say. Without this support, leaders can quickly lose the motivation to undertake their action plans: after all, no one can evolve against a brick wall.

In conclusion, while the utilization of the MBTI tool and discussing the implications of type can be a powerful start, it is not the end of the story. Make sure your leaders get the most out of your session by setting the wheels in motion toward optimizing their potential: in a real, committed and supported way.

Ready & Conger, 2003. Why leadership-Development Efforts Fail
Hanson, 2012. The Leadership Development Interface: Aligning leaders and Organizations toward More effective Leadership Learning