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Constructing Leadership Experiments

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Later this month I'll be co-facilitating a 6-month Leadership Academy for business and community leaders in an area just outside of Philadelphia. One of the tools we'll be using is Stewart Friedman's Total Leadership model, which focuses on helping leaders become "Real, Whole and Innovative." 

As part of the Total Leadership model, Friedman encourages the use of experiments--something I've long advocated and used in my own personal practice. What's useful about Friedman's experiments is that he divides them into several categories, which, I think, can make it easier for us to think about constructing experiments for ourselves. 

Total Leadership Experiments

Total Leadership experiments fall into 9 categories. These categories represent the model's focus on the whole person and the recognition that leadership has to occur in all domains of life in order for us to truly develop ourselves as leaders. 

  • Tracking and Reflecting--"Keeping a record of activity, thoughts and feelings to assess progress on personal and professional goals". This record-keeping helps increase self-awareness and reveals priorities. 
  • Planning and Organizing--"Taking new actions designed to better use time and pepare and plan for the future." This can include experimenting with new technology tools or time management systems such as GTD
  • Rejuvenating and Restoring-"Attending to body, mind and spirit so that the tasks of living and working are undertaken with renewed power, focus and commitment." 
  • Appreciating and Caring--"Having fun with people (e.g. by doing things that are typically outside of work with co-workers), caring for others and appreciating relationships as a way of bonding at a basic human level to respect the whole person." These experiements increase trust and create new capacities to experiment with new work methods.
  • Focusing and Concentrating--"Trying to physically and/or psychologically be present when needed to pay attention to stakeholders who matter most." Experiments in this category include needing to say "no" to certain obligations as well as seeking ways to be more respectful and accessible to important people in our lives.
  • Revealing and Engaging--"Share more of yourself with others--and listening--so they can better support both your values and the steps you want to take towards realizing your leadership vision." These experiments enhance communiciation and trust and allow you to demonstrate respect for the whole person. 
  • Time-shifing and Re-placing--"Working remotely or during different hours to increase flexibility and thus better fit community, family and self activities while increasing efficiencies." 
  • Delegating and Developing--"Re-allocating tasks in ways that increase trust, free up time and develop skills in self and others." 
  • Exploring and Venturing--"Taking steps towards starting a new job, career or other activity that better aligns your work, family, community and/or self domains with your core values and aspirations." 

Using the Total Leadership Experiments

In my experience, the "Tracking and Reflecting" experiments are the foundation for everything else. These experiments are about integrating reflective practices into your life so that you can assess the other kinds of experiments you may need to try. Without tracking and reflecting, it's difficult to know where you need to do other work. 

I've also found that those experiments I most resist are also the ones I most need to do. "Planning and Organizing" experiments, for example, don't appeal to me. I can think of a million reasons why I don't want to "restrict my creativity" by putting into place strategies that would help me be more organized. But increasingly I'm finding that my resistance to these types of experiments is impacting my ability to work. Much as I hate to admit it, I'm going to need to construct some strategies for dealing with this domain of my life so that the other areas are able to run more smoothly. 

Related to this idea of resistance, in working with people on the Total Leadership model, I've found that there is tremendous reluctance to experiment in those areas related to "rejuvenating and restoring." For many hard core "leaders," the idea that you would take care of yourself feels low on the list of priorities. I do a lot of work with human services and nonprofit professionals and they are particularly reluctant to try these kinds of experiments. Yet this is one of the areas that, if neglected, is likely to lead to burnout. 

"Delegating and Developing" is another area where leaders tend to resist experimentation. It typically is associated with their perfectionism and needs for control. There is a "letting go" quality to experiments in this category that many people have difficulty with. 

Experimentation as Professional Development

Constructing and implementing these kinds of personal learning experiments can be powerful professional development tools. I've found that by first putting into place systems for tracking and reflecting, I can then move on to constructing experiments in different domains of my life, depending on what I need and want to address. This creates a rich environment for learning that can be far more inspiring than taking a class. My life becomes a laboratory and what I experience gives me the tools to construct my own learning and development. 

What do you think about these categories? Do they help you better think through places where you could construct experiments for yourself?  Have you experimented in any of these domains? What happened? 

 

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