Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Business Case for Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Continues to Pour In

Yet another survey, the exact same message!  The global consulting firm Six Seconds just published their 2012 Workplace Issues Report, “Insights on the People Side of Performance” and it is yet another significant piece of evidence that a new perspective towards leadership, teams, and organizational culture needs to emerge.  In the report, the three key findings were the need for identifying, hiring, and retaining talent; the thirst of employees for visionary leaders; and the absence of business culture that resonates emotional intelligence.  This report is in total alignment with the previous, recent research conducted by RogenSi, McKinsey & Co.®, The Gallup Company, Maritz Research, peer-reviewed research from Cornell, and the IBM CEO Survey of 2010.   I can’t help but wonder when leadership will get the message and finally move forward to embrace a transformational approach their employees are crying out for in survey after survey?

Talent is the key factor in our modern economy.  Without talent companies cannot create and market innovative products and services.  The key driver of value creation in the 21st century is the commercialization of intellectual property (IP).  The source of IP is human creativity.  Fully engaged, inspired, and creative human beings, working cohesively together, are the raw material of business.  Yet every single survey and research paper I’ve read over the past two years points to the exact same conclusion.  There is a critical leadership crisis in the business world today that has left employees feeling empty, used, and of little value.  Our own firm dug a little deeper into the flood of research and calculated that many firms are lucky to be getting a positive return on investment on approximately half of their payroll.  If Henry Ford had seen a 50% scrap rate on his raw materials how quickly do you think he would have addressed it?  Exactly.  Yet we continue to see transactional leadership continuing with business as usual.

The second key issue that surfaces in this report is the desire of associates to be led by visionary leaders.  People don’t come to work looking to lose.  They want to win, they want to succeed, and they want to feel like their a part of something purposeful and larger than themselves.  This is especially true for Gen Y and Gen X associates.  We can find very clear insights for our human need, our very human nature that is pre-programmed to embrace visionary, transformational leadership by looking at Dr. Jaak Panksepp’s research on Core Mammalian Emotional Systems.  These are constant, hard-wired emotions all mammals share and respond to accordingly.  Create an environment that cultivates fear (which is what transactional leaders do…light on the reward and heavy on the punishment) and you’ll get a very predictable emotional response; disengagement.  Cultivate an atmosphere that encourages seeking (which is what visionary, transformational leaders do) and you’ll also get a very predicable emotional response; engagement.  Engagement is a pre-requisite for creativity, the single most important leadership attribute identified in the IBM Global CEO Survey.  Seeking, our constant impulse to explore and make sense of our environment, is directed and coordinated, to a great degree, by the vision of the business.  We all want to know where we’re going.  Leaders that authentically leverages this core emotion accelerate accretive value creation; the whole is genuinely greater than the sum of its parts.  This isn’t theory, I’ve seen it work first-hand.

The final key issue, the absence of organizational culture that resonates with emotional intelligence, points directly to the solution!  Emotionally intelligent leaders (self-aware, self regulating, socially aware, and relationship driven) cultivate a mindful, engaging organizational culture in which people can flourish.  Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing.  Leaders say one thing, and then their behavior indicates another.  This state of incongruity resonates throughout the organizational culture.  People feel this intensely and choose to go into survival mode, avoid taking any risks, stop creating, and simply try to stay off the radar.  Here’s a quote from a professional that was surveyed by Six Seconds that pretty much says it all, “We have abandoned all leadership training, in large part because upper management was frightened by the gap between information presented and their own leadership practices.”

We’re approaching an inflection point.  A time when the urgency to act will emerge.  For many firms, this sense of awareness will come too late, and they’ll find themselves just another footnote of history.  People misinterpreted Darwin’s theory of evolution.  It isn’t survival of the fittest, it is those that are most adaptive that survive.  We live in a time of accelerating, adaptive challenges and unprecedented volatility.  Transactional leadership, the status quo in business, is walking the same path of the Dodo bird.

© 2012, Terry Murray.


Filed under Leadership Development, Organizational Culture, Team Building

The Perpetual Pendulum in Leadership Thinking

I was speaking with the vice president of training and development at a medical device company the other day about our integrative approach for professional develop.  She is an avid horse fan, and expressed the value she sees in the linking of our experiential learning workshops with horses to our Accretive Coaching Process™ to spark a shift in perspective, explore adaptive solutions, and engrain sustained, creative thinking.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been directed that all of our training and development programs be migrated to computer based training,” she commented.  “But stay in touch, everything changes every 18 to 24 months.”

Her comments brought me back to my days in corporate when I had witnesses this seemingly perpetual swinging of the pendulum of leadership’s thinking towards innovation, structure, strategy, well, in fact, pretty much everything.  It was almost binary in nature; if not this, then that.  When that would fall short, a new group would come in, and immediately begin to move the organization back in the other direction.  Sound familiar?

I’ve come to realize that this cyclical thinking, that never breaks us out of our well worn path, is rooted in our tendency, as Westerners, to continuously look out there for solutions that are in fact waiting to be discovered, quietly beneath the surface within ourselves.  If only we’d find the courage to take a hard look in the mirror of self-awareness.  This is why we built our process on the emerging research from the neurosciences, performance psychology, emotional intelligence, core emotional systems, quantum physics, and individual learning styles.  More and more, the research from these fields, especially from the neurosciences, and yes, quantum physics, supports our approach.

The latest pendulum swing is pointing its nebulous finger at stretch goals.  That’s where the fault lies, in our corporate obsession with establishing, and most often missing, organizational (and personal for that matter) goals.  The research coming out of our leading business schools, is attempting to make their case that obsessive goal setting damages organizational culture, erodes intrinsic motivation, distorts risk evaluation, drives unethical behavior, and is one of the primary reasons for the endemic associate disengagement crisis.1 Another earlier report from the American Psychology Association states  “The optimally striving individual ought to endeavor to achieve and approach goals that only slightly implicate the self; that are only moderately important, fairly easy, and moderately abstract; that do not conflict with each other, and that concern the accomplishment of something other than financial gain.”I can’t help but come away with the impression that what this study is suggesting is less accountability and lowering the bar is the key to performance.  I do agree with the fact that goals should be in alignment and should reflect positive intention that expands beyond simple financial gain.

The pop psychologists, books like “The Secret” and the self help gurus have helped push goal setting and vacuous visualization to the point of foolishness, so I can see what prompted the good intentions that I’m sure prompted much of this research into goal setting.  Please remember, research begins with a hypothesis, in this case, that goal setting in and of itself results in missed targets, bad behavior and poor performance, and then sets out to prove the theory.  This can lead to myopic perspectives that lose focus on other variables that may also be in play.

Here’s where I think this research misses the target.  Goal setting, in and of itself is essential in aligning and moving an organization forward.  Especially in these times of unprecedented volatility and the acceleration of adaptive challenges organizations will continue to face in the 21st century.  What the research didn’t take into consideration is the prevalent, transactional leadership mindset that is setting the goals.  Transactional leadership is dominant, and operates on the 20th century premise of reward and punishment.  It’s almost Pavlovian.  Hit the goal, and you’re rewarded, miss the goal and you’ll be punished.  This, and the culture of fear it cultivates, is what drives the negative outcomes, not the goal setting.

Now, what if we were to actually rethink our fundamental approach to leadership, and migrate to a transformational leadership style?  An approach that leads from a perspective of serving those we lead.  A mindset of developing and supporting the professional and personal growth of those we are charged to lead.  An inclusive, transparent, and congruent approach that is inspirational and is the key to cultivating creative thinking, discerned risk taking, and adaptability.

I’ve witnessed this firsthand while in corporate.  In the 1990s, I had P&L responsibility for a global service unit operating in the pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment market that I had been charged to launch.  I was able to start from scratch, hire my leaders, and recruit our own technicians, and create our strategy.  Even then, I was a transformational leader, doing so more out of instinct than anything else.  It just felt right, and had always served me, my associates, and the company I was working for at the time quite well.  Our entire company had a stretch goal of growing revenue by 25% that year.  Now that’s a s-t-r-e-t-c-h goal!  Ours was the only unit that hit the target.  The rest of the company did not do as well, but none of us received our bonuses, even the ones that had performed, because the entire company missed the goal.  What do you think that did to the morale of the truly engaged associates in our business unit?  This also points to the inevitable problems transformational leaders will have operating under transactional leadership paradigms.  Eventually, you’ll be undermined.

In my real-world experienced opinion, the research on goal setting is flawed because it is assuming other factors are not in play, and the fundamental environment is functional.  But nevertheless, they found the statistical information to support their hypothesis.

Here are my five key tips for setting and achieving performance goals:

1.) Before you do anything, re-evaluate your leadership philosophy.  Transformational leadership is critical to success in the 21st century.  Creativity is key, at every touch point in an organization.  Creativity cannot emerge in a transactional leadership environment.  Transaction leadership leverages our core emotion of fear rather than encouraging our core emotional desire for seeking.

2.)  Don’t start with the goal, this is metaphorically putting the cart before the horse.  Start by exploring your firm’s vision and intention.  Are they in alignment?  Is it a shared vision and do your associates feel the positive intention of that vision?  Does it resonate congruently throughout your organization and your marketplace?  Now co-create the goal with inclusive, associate participation and use these parameters as a guiding factor.

3.) Once you’ve embraced the goal, which is truly only a projection of your vision lying somewhere over the horizon, create a detailed approach to bring the steps necessary to achieve the goal into the present day.  This isn’t radical in thought, it is classic GOST planning.  Goal ~ 3 to 5 years out; Objectives ~ measurable performance gates, in terms of time and other tangible criteria, to be achieved in the current fiscal year that move you towards your Goal; Strategies ~ initiatives that will move your people towards the achievement of the Objectives; and Tactics ~ the day-to-day, week-to-week action items that will implement your Strategies.  This builds presence, focus, and engagement in the moment, the only place we can ever influence anything.

4.) Take a hard look at your organizational culture.  Is it still in its transactional state or is it pulsating with possibilities.  This is why our firm focuses on aligning and optimizing Authentic, Transformational Leadership, Mindful Strategy, and an Engaging, Creative Organizational Culture.  Miss one element and high performance is extinguished.  The best visionary seeds will fail to germinate in depleted soil.

5.) Educate, coach and empower associates to grow as they move forward.  A study published in the Harvard Business Review® cited research that indicates a dollar spent on advertising created two dollars in revenue but each dollar invested in education resulted in forty dollars in increased revenue.  In addition, a research study published in the Journal of Public Personnel Management found that training improves the productivity of management a little over 22%. The integration of training with professional coaching improves productivity 88%.

If you embrace these five elements, goals will be met and the creativity CEOs so desperately desire will emerge.  The key is to leave transactional leadership behind and embrace the new mindset of transformational leadership.  If you don’t, the next generation, the Gen X and Gen Y’s will, and you’ll find your firm falling further and further behind as we continue to emerge from the Great Recession.

1.) “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting”, Lisa D. Ordóñez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky, and Max H. Bazerman, Harvard Business Review, February, 2009.

2.) “The hazards of goal pursuit. Virtue, vice, and personality: The complexity of behavior.”, L.A. King, C.M. Burton. Edward C.Chang (Ed),. xxvi, 189 pp. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, 2003.

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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Performance Transformation, LLC™ Featured In MPI’s Meeting Guide To Hawaii


Performance Transformation, LLC™ (Venice, FL) announced today their founder and Managing Partner, Terry Murray, is to be featured in February’s edition of MPI’s  Meeting Guide to Hawaii.  The professional journal ONE+ has monthly circulation of 30,000 professional meeting planners.  The article, written by Elaine Pofeldt, focuses on the value of revisiting Hawaii as a viable and economical option for professional meeting events.

“We were really excited to receive the call from Elaine to be interviewed for her article,”  commented Terry Murray.  “The series of workshops we conducted last October in Hawaii couldn’t have been more successful.”

In the article, Terry is quoted as saying, “Hawaii is a perfect setting for our programs.  Our developmental approach focuses on building competencies in emotional intelligence to improve leadership and team cohesion.  So, for us, the Aloha Spirit reflects and aligns with our philosophy and approach.”

The root meaning of Aloha comes from three Polynesian words.  Alo,which means sharing in the present moment.  Oha, which means joyous affection.  And Ha, which means the life energy of the breath.  The traditional greeting of Hawaiians involves an exhale of breath with each other to emphasize the Aloha Spirit.

“The traditional approaches towards leadership development and team building are no longer delivering the results our rapidly changing, multi-cultural business world demands, ” comments Terry.  “Our evidence-based programs are designed to build presence, rapport and authentic empathy in our next generation of leaders.  These are the keys to inspiring teams of knowledge workers, to creating genuine engagement  Cultivating competencies the embrace inclusion and ignite cohesion are the keys to unleashing human creativity, the key driver of value creation in the 21st century economy.”

Performance Transformation was brought to Oahu by the nonprofit Palmarie Community Transformational Alliance to provide leadership development and team building workshops for their leadership team and launch Performance Transformation’s award-winning “Warriors in Transition” program.  The program is designed to assist active duty military personal, veterans, and their families successfully navigate the stress of the deployment cycle and eventual transition back to civilian life.  The program received a formal commendation by General David Petraeus in 2010 for “helping to create emotionally resilient families.”

“By the time our involvement in the the wars in the Afghanistan and Iraq finally wind down approximately two million of our fellow citizens will have been deployed in these combat zones,” adds Terry. “The VA is simply overwhelmed by the needs of so many of our veterans that are returning home with PTSD, or with the poly-traumatic effects of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury.  It’s up the community to step up and lend a hand to help these brave Americans transition home and find their way back to living successful and fulfilling lives.  To be able to once again enjoy the things their service has enabled us to enjoy, undisturbed these past eleven years.”

The VA estimates the rate of PTSD to be somewhere between 18% to 24% with OEF/OIF combat veterans.  Additional research indicates combat stress is impacting spouses and family members as well.   Performance Transformation’s innovate approach partners with licensed therapist to conduct Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.  The approach enables Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be conducted in real time, and with horses, instead of a traditional office setting.

“We discovered the CBT benefits during our presentation at the 18th Annual Military and Civilian Combat Stress Conference in L.A. in 2010,” adds Mr. Murray. “Most recently, we’re discovering our approach to working with horses also aligns seamlessly with Gestalt Therapy as well.  It’s an exciting time to be involved in Equine Facilitated Learning and in support of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy.”

The concentration of the military in Hawaii presents unique challenges in the community.  It is estimated that 40% of Hawaii’s homeless population is comprised of veterans.  During their visit, Performance Transformation had the opportunity to introduce their approach to Councilman Tom Berg, who is working diligently in support of the islands veteran community.

“To come to the islands with such positive intention, and to have felt the Aloha Spirit directly in support of our work truly resonated with us all,” said Terry. “Last year we conducted various professional development workshops in Florida, Montana, and Colorado, but Hawaii was truly special.  The fact that we were able to conduct our programs at Equine808, the islands’ first and only horse rescue organization in support their mission added to our Aloha Spirit experience.”

You’re welcome to click here to learn more about Performance Transformation’s leadership development and team building workshops they conducted in Hawaii with a sequence of photographs of their approach with the horses.

Photo courtesy of Precision Photography of Honolulu.

© 2012, Performance Transformation, LLC™.

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Cultivating Mindful Leadership ~ Two Simple Questions You Can Ask Yourself That Build Presence and Cultivated Engagement

Successful leaders are mindful leaders.  Whether they’re leading others, or simply leading themselves throughout the day.  Mindful leadership is centered in the competencies of Emotional Intelligence (self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management skills).  These competencies emerge from our pre-frontal cortex, what Dr. Daniel Goleman refers to as the executive center of our brain.  Research from neuroscience demonstrates that our brains have plasticity.  We can actually change our neural networking by mindfully choosing how we choose to think.

Through our leadership development and team building work with horses, we’ve learned some very meaningful lessons that relate to how we connect, engage, and motivate those around us.  In order for a horse to join up with a human, which is a voluntary response from the horse, one must first be fully present, engaged in themselves, engaged with the horse, and fully attentive in that very moment.  You can’t be thinking about what you have to do later in the day, what you should have done yesterday, or engaged with our rooftop chatter, the stream of verbal thoughts that continuously flows through our heads.  You also must express authentic intention.  You have to want to be in relationship and feel the joy that relationship will represent deeply within your heart.

You see, you must engage the horse in their world, where they live and operate from every moment.  Time is a human concept.  Our thoughts about time can be consuming to a leader and pull our emotional, cognitive, and creative  energies out of the moment…the only place we can really act…the only time that actually exists.  In the moment lies eternity, for the moment is continuously present while simultaneously moving us into the next moment. This is where horses live…in the moment. In addition, as prey animals, horses are hyper-sensitive to their environment, lest they be lunch for some predator surreptitiously stalking them, downwind and in the high grass.  They can quite literally sense intention and require congruency in order to relax and join up with us.  When we are emotionally congruent and holding the space for positive intention to emerge, people will join up with us as well!  Neuroscience research into the function of mirror neurons and the state of entrainment have proven that a biochemical cascade of hormones emerges when this occurs.  The pleasure center of the brain is activated, and we feel good and want to be led by people in this state, just like the horses.

So, as I awake every morning, I ask myself two simple questions:

How do I wish to show up today…how do I wish to be?

How long can I make it through the day without having a negative, judgmental thought?

This frames my entire outlook before I crawl out of bed.  I walk with a smile and great everyone I meet with positive intention and a sense of grace.  It is amazing how wonderfully they respond to this simple act of presence and intention. Regarding the other question, well, that’s a bit more of a challenge!  We’ve been socially conditioned to see ourselves as individuals, separate beings from one another.  Separate from nature itself.  Separate, even from God…in Western religious traditions God is up there and we are down here.  In the Eastern religious traditions, the idea of Divine Spirit, of God, is present in all things.  There is a perception of Oneness with the Creator and all of creation.  Two very different perspectives of how we see the world and ourselves.

Seeing ourselves as separated from each other opens the door for judgment towards those not like us or those less fortunate than us to pop into our thoughts.  It closes the door for compassion, empathy, and inclusion to emerge.  But we truly are all connected.  Research form quantum physics reveals this through verifiable and reproducible experiments that have proven the non-locality of consciousness.  Two electrons that were once in the same location, then separated and isolated, without any chance for a signal pathway to occur, will continue to mirror the spin of the other.  Change the direction of one electron’s orbit and the other, even if it a thousand miles away, will match the new orbit of the other electron, and do so immediately…the shift and match in orbit occurs faster than the speed of light.

Letting go of judgmental thoughts is difficult (please don’t confuse this with discernment, and important attribute for every leader).  I find if I am selective with my neural inputs I can hold this space of being longer into each day.  If I have to go out into traffic, if I choose to turn on the media, or if I’m at an airport, this really requires mindfulness not to react to my conditioned perspective and behaviors.  But that’s the world we live in, right?  We must engage the world if we are to succeed as leaders.  But here’s the payoff of letting go of judgmental thought patterns…it redirects your physical, psychological, and creative energy to be fully engaged and present with everyone you lead and in everything you do!  Judging is exhausting.  The more I let this go, the more energy I find myself having to get more accomplished.  The more energy I have to engage, motivate, and inspire those around me.

Try these two simple, little questions for a few days in a row and see what begins to happen.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Photo courtesy of Precision Photography of Honolulu.

© 2012, Terry Murray

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A Startling Look Into Our Cultural Mirror ~ Why Companies Struggle to Build Cohesive Teams and Develop the Right Leaders

I was approached a few weeks ago by a remarkable entrepreneur to talk about the possibility of conducting some cross-cultural leadership development for his team of business partners.  Coming from an Eastern culture, this group of hard working, kind spirited people are following the American Dream.  They’re creating jobs, adding to the wondrous fabric of our society, and charting their own path much like our forefathers and foremothers did long before we fell into our expected comforts of modern America.  It is an exciting opportunity, and thankfully, because of my work in Corporate America in international markets and my continuous interest and studies into cultures much older than ours, I felt well prepared to embark on this project.

As I began my research, I was compelled to take a long, cold look into our own cultural mirror.  To step away from a perspective we, that grew up here, more or less take for granted every day.  In doing so, I began to realize how peculiar we Americans must look to those from other parts of the world.  Especially from the East.  So, ever the diligent market researcher, I began to ask local merchants and business people from these other cultures what they thought of us Americans.

The emotional response that immediately emerged to this seemingly benign question set me back on my heels.  I began to see how, through their eyes, our behaviors, mannerisms, and attitudes appear to be misaligned with many of the values we so dearly espouse.  To others we can appear to be a bit mad, seemingly thrashing about in a frenzy of activity with little self-reflection to center and ground ourselves.

Next, I began to explore the academic research on the similarities and differences of culture. I began to dig into Geerte Hofestede’s remarkable work researching the dimensions of culture.  The key dimension that jumped off the page was his take on Individualism versus Collectivism (and no, he’s not referencing socialism here).  We Americans are endeared with the rugged individual; the lone pioneer that forged their future through grit and determination.  My prospect, on the other hand, comes from a culture that holds the extended family at the center of their cultural lives.  Their caring for one another is as engrained in their perspective of what it means to be a human being as ours is with the larger-than-life image of John Wayne’s lone silhouette  sauntering off into the sunset  at the end of the movie, “The Seekers”.

The historical split in this view of the world can be traced back to ancient Persia and the rise of Zoroastrianism around 600 B.C. (the great comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell is a wonderful resource if you care to explore this in more detail).  It is when and where the psyche of human beings split between the Western hunting and herding cultures and the Eastern agrarian cultures.  Hunting was often a lone, isolating venture and one well suited for the dominant, physical nature of men.  Farming on the other hand, especially in ancient times, required the cooperation of many, both of women and men.  It followed the cycles of the seasons and required storing between harvests, which is why much of the early cosmology, written language, mathematics, and detailed calendars emerged in the East.  It was at this time, nearly 3,000 years ago, that the seeds were sewn for our Western perspective to emerge. That we were  somehow separate from the natural world, separate from one another, and entitled to take whatever we wanted from nature, regardless of the outcome.  Our Eastern counterparts stayed upon their course of being as one with the natural world, and thoroughly connected with one another, especially through the extended family, but throughout the community as well.  This isn’t to deny that caste and class created hierarchies of status, we are all human beings and we’ve yet to create a utopian society.

With the dawn of the Industrial Age, this Western attitude went into overdrive.  The mythology of the self-made man, the Horatio Alger story, the lone industrialist that clawed his way to the top settled into our American culture.  Even in our modern day, no one succeeds completely on their own, yet this still resonates in our minds.  We cherish and herald competition, successful competition, as our highest value.  Yet for someone to win, someone else must lose in this scenario.  In older cultures, it is the opposite.  Cooperative behavior is held in the highest esteem.  Cooperation leads to win-win outcomes.  What is eroding this traditional outlook in the East is America’s most permeating export…our culture.

So here we are today, in 2012, and the entire world is shifting beneath our feet.  We have moved well beyond the Industrial Age to a time when the commercialization of intellectual property is the primary driver of value creation in our economy.  The source of intellectual property is human creativity, and the only way to commercialize it efficiently is through the cooperation of highly cohesive teams of knowledge workers.  This point was underscored in the 2010 IBM Global CEO Survey.  In conducting face-to-face interviews with more than 1,500 CEOs, IBM discovered the single most important attribute CEOs are looking for in future leaders is creativity and the ability to cultivate creativity throughout the organization.

Here’s the challenge for Western businesses.  We’ve been conditioned, trained, and enculturated to beat the competition at every turn.  As a successful business strategists I too became a master of this game.  I would focus maniacally on leveraging a company’s core competencies to create a continuous competitive advantage.  With this as our guiding principle, looking outward into the marketplace, how could it not eventually reverberate back onto us within our organizational cultures?  I played this game for years, and played it well.  I competed for the next promotion, the next raise, the next big opportunity to propel my career forward.  With every level I moved up the hierarchical pyramid, the competition grew more ferocious and cut throat.  Not everyone I competed against felt compelled to play by the rules, or were content to succeed based upon their merit and performance, either.  It became ugly and mean-spirited.  By the time I was sitting in the board room I found myself surrounded by a fierce group of dominant, lone hunters.  And if we are to believe the study issued by McKinsey & Co.® published last June, that out of a sample size of 5,560 “C” level and one-step-down executives, only 1% of corporate leaders scored excellent in eight key leadership competencies we really have some challenges ahead.  Ninety percent scored below average.  I’m also not convinced all of the competencies they were testing are even relevant in today’s rapidly changing economy.

So here’s the real challenge for us today…

If we recognize that creative, cooperative and highly inclusive teams are the key to success going forward, how are we changing our approach to team building and leadership development?  In most cases, we’re not.  We see companies spending billions of dollars a year on programs that have utterly failed.  We send teams off to build boats in luxury hotel swimming pools, send them up into the trees to navigate ropes courses, and even worse, have them spend the day playing war games or shooting at each other with paint balls.  Activities that favor and continue to engrain dominant, competitive behaviors.  Activities that often marginalize large segments of the organization that may not be physically competitive by their very nature, yet very well may be some of the most creatively gifted members of their staff.

How are we developing our next generation of leaders?  Have we shifted the developmental paradigm or are we continuing to follow the same pattern that has so obviously failed us?  A peer-reviewed research study published in January of 2010 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology* identified the the fact that up and coming leaders that express creative thinking are sidetracked on their way up the ladder.  The creativity the CEOs are claiming to seek is being tossed aside before it can fully developed and prepared to take the helm.  Again, companies are spending billions of dollars a year on leadership training and development that is painfully misguided.

Yesterday, I heard Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Perry speaking about her new book, “Sister Citizen” on the radio.  She made a comment about what it takes to embrace an entirely new perspective, one that breaks the chains of our conditioned minds and behaviors.  She used a term I had never heard before and upon hearing it I knew in my head and felt in my heart she was absolutely correct.  Dr. Harris-Perry said that in order to embrace a meaningful shift in perspective one must have a SEE; a Significant Emotional Event.  Why do I know she is right?  Because I witness this in every Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning workshop we conduct.  Having been engaged in this work for more than four years now, I have seen this shift in perspective emerge through the significant emotional events and relationship metaphors that inevitably emerge while experiencing the work with the horses.

Is our approach different?  It sure is…and it is effective.  The specially designed exercises with the horses literally speaks to everyone by moving the participants through all four modalities of Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (according to Dr. David Kolb’s research, adults learn using two or three of these modalities: experiential learning, reflective learning, modeling & correlation, and trial & error).  Horses also model a different pattern of behavior.  As herds of prey animals, they evolved in the wild to become highly functional teams.  In packs of predators the leader is the one who dominates.  In a herd of horses, the leader is the one who is watched.  It’s an interesting alternative, perhaps one worth considering as we attempt to navigate the adaptive challenges of our times.

The shift in perspective is the first step.  Building cooperative, cohesive teams and developing mindful, transformational leaders is process-driven and requires ongoing education and coaching to engrain over time.

Whether or not we secure the cross-cultural leadership opportunity I mentioned at the beginning of this article is, quite frankly irrelevant.  The revenue would be welcomed of course, and the experience would be remarkably enriching.  But the value of the education this prospect has already afforded, of drawing my attention back onto my own culture, is a gift in and of itself!

*Recognizing Creative Leadership: Can Creative Idea Expression Negatively Relate to Perceptions of Leadership Potential?”, Jennifer S. Mueller, Jack Goncalo, Dishan Kamdar, Cornell University ILR School, IRL Collection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January, 2010

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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The Neuroscience of Leadership Development

With just eleven months to go before the Value-Based Purchasing component of the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to go into effect, it is an auspicious time to consider how health care providers, and hospitals specifically, plan to successfully navigate the adaptive change to come.  The delivery of health care is unique, complex, and currently fragmented.  Over the past thirty years, no other industry has experienced such a massive infusion of technological advances while at the same time functioning within a culture that has slowly and methodically evolved over the past century.  The evolutionary pace of health care culture is about to be shocked into an entirely new reality.  One that will inevitably require health care leadership to adopt a new, innovative perspective as to the delivery of their services.

First, a bit on the details of the coming changes.  The concept of Value-Based Purchasing is that the buyers of…

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