Stop doing this immediately if you want to be a successful leader

Sep 20, 2017Engagement, Human Resources, Leadership, Learning, Recruitment & Selection, Training

We live in a world where we are susceptible to being seduced by stories. If we were to believe all that is posted, printed or proselytised we would be probably feel that nature had dealt us a losing hand. In our age of information, we’re sold myths over and over again that celebrities were born and stayed beautiful without ever having to diet or have surgery. Technology gurus such as Page and Zuckerberg came up with a brilliant idea and made it to billionaire painlessly overnight. Going back as far as Mozart, we have rewritten history to believe that he came out of the womb writing and playing music, when the difficult truth is he practiced so hard, his hands became deformed.


Malcolm Gladwell the author of Outliers believes as a society we actually value this so called effortless achievement over the achievement born through effort. It’s as if we would rather believe that you are either born a genius, a rockstar or an athlete or a nobody. It’s time to stop this delusion in its tracks.


At The Complete Leader Ireland, we know that a Leader is not born but made, that she must continuously learn and have the right mindset to stay ahead in her field. In fact we believe that one of the most essential steps on your journey to being a more complete Leader is to question your mindset. Even when you say you want to develop your Leadership competencies, you pay your money and you turn up to class on time, we’re curious about what your attitude is and what your brain chemistry is primed for? We want this to be the most impactful Leadership experience of your life.


Padraig Berry our TCL Ireland Facilitator recommends asking yourself the question ‘Do you realise that everyone is your superior in some way and your job is to figure out how and learn from them?


Why you can’t afford not to have a Growth Mindset


Continuous Learning


Firstly what is the definition of a growth mindset? Carol Dweck coined the phrases Growth and fixed Mindset approximately thirty years ago. She worked as a Maths teacher and became curious about her students’ different attitudes to failure. What she noticed was that whilst some students reacted positively to Maths problems slightly harder than their abilities and consequently sought to improve (growth mindset) others seemed defeated, judged and overwhelmed by these challenges. (fixed mindset) The children either saw failure as an opportunity to grow hence Growth Mindset or experienced it as meaning that they weren’t smart or talented hence Fixed Mindset.


At the same time brain science began to reflect this belief and studies came to the conclusion that we can change a person’s mindset from growth to fixed by teaching them that intelligence is malleable and showing them that the brain grows with effort.


As a leader and in your companies this Growth mindset translates to being comfortable with feedback, accepting and admitting failure, collaborating rather than competing and learning from your mistakes. We see your Growth Mindset as an essential part of the Competency Continuous Learning. If you’re not quite there yet, we will show you how.


Albert Einstein clearly understood the Growth Mindset when he said ‘its not that I’m smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”


It’s more than Continuous Learning


We like to break this competency down into the following:

  • a mindset for Growth
  • a passion or appetite to learn more
  • the courage to try and fail
  • to recognise and receive ongoing feedback from such failure
  • take positive action for change from it
  • along with a resilience to keep learning and failing in order to achieve mastery.


Continuous Learning


Black Box Thinking


Matthew Syed in his book Black Box Thinking discusses the Aviation industry’s very progressive approach to failure. Everyone knows that an airplane has a blackbox and that in the event of an accident, the data is downloaded from this box and that experts analyse all of it until they draw up their findings. Their conclusions are then used to make sure this doesn’t ever happen again. It’s a very strong feedback or growth mindset culture and the result of this is an incredible level of safety. Did you know that out of every 4.4 million flights, there is one accident? (2014 data)


Unfortunately not every industry sector has this level of safety and Syed juxtaposes the Aviation Industry with the Healthcare Industry. They tend to do the opposite, instead of examining what went wrong, their mistakes are put down to ‘ just one of these things’ that happen.


Shockingly the number of preventable deaths in Healthcare in the US is judged at between 210,000 and 400,000 (2014 Journal of Patient Safety). This puts medical error as the third highest cause of death in the States behind heart disease and cancer! Syed tells us it’s the equivalent of two jumbo jets falling out of the sky every 24 hours.


This information is rather alarming but the bottom line here is we all need to engage in Blackbox thinking if we want to be successful Leaders.


I want you to pause for a moment. Imagine how differently you and your organisation would look if you adopted Blackbox Thinking …


I’ve left school far behind…


Continuous Learning


Did your education end at graduation or was that when it really started? Ron Price says tomorrow’s leaders must embrace Continuous Learning as both a personal and an organisational value in order to create a culture of growth and competitiveness. He defines Continuous Learning as not just a skill but an appetite for learning and implementing new concepts, technologies and methods.


The US Army created the acronym VUCA. It stands for Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity and describes our ever changing environment. It is not appropriate to use yesterday’s defined solutions in today’s VUCA world problems. Our leaders must have access to a constant stream of fresh knowledge and ideas to help leaders deal with these new problems and ambiguity. They can do this by engaging in continuous learning.


Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. According to IBMthe build out of  the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours’


So if you’re a leader and you’re not continually learning you are not going to be a very effective leader.


So where do I start?


Get Comfortable with Failure


John W. Gardner tells us: “We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure – all your life.”

If you find yourself struggling with perfectionism, we recommend you find a good Coach who will help you.


Addicted to Being Right?


Recently I had the privilege of listening to Dr Judith Glaser speak in Dublin about Conversational Intelligence. She talks about the the brain chemistry of being right and how our brains are so addicted to it that we get a dopamine and adrenaline high from it. Unfortunately this prevents us from being open to different perspectives and to continuous learning. When you fight for your opinion, you end up squashing other people’s voice and ideas. This is the opposite of Continuous Learning. Dr Glaser recommends setting rules of engagements at meetings, planning when and who will speak so that everyone has an opportunity, asking questions we don’t know the answers to and as always actively listening to people.


Follow your Passion


When we know and do what we love, dedicating our lives to it and continuously learning are not a struggle. Many growth-minded people didn’t even plan to go to the top but they get there because of the relentless pursuit of their passion. They centre their new identity on being the person who is a master of their craft.

Fixed minded people are only interested in the outcome, not in the process, not learning, not improving just being the best. As a result when they fail, they feel completely over-whelmed and demoralised.

When we know and do what we love, dedicating our lives to it and continuously learning are not a struggle. Many growth-minded people didn’t even plan to go to the top but they get there because of the relentless pursuit of their passion. They centre their new identity on being the person who is a master of their craft.

Fixed minded people are only interested in the outcome, not in the process, not learning, not improving just being the best. As a result when they fail, they feel completely overwhlemed and demoralised.


Continuous Learning Model


Make a Plan


Ron Price says that we all have the opportunity to be the best in the world at something but none of us have the opportunity to be the best in the world at everything!

What’s your driving force? Are you motivated by making money, identify how you could make more money by learning more? Are you motivated by creativity? If so how could you become more creative by learning? Do a TTI Driving Forces Assessment to find out what drives you.

Ron recommends that you develop a plan for ‘why you’re learning? Plan out your Learning so that you can keep and stay on track over the next year and beyond.

He suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • What is your area of expertise as a Leader?
  • Where do you want to be the best in the world and then how can you build a plan for adding layer upon layer of learning?
  • What do you want to study from the thought leaders?

Whatever it is, you have to keep adding to this as the world is changing so quickly. If you’re depending on what you knew last month or last year, sooner or later you’re going to be irrelevant!


Continuous Learning

Consistency and Persistency


The debate among our leaders at The Complete Leader Programme Ireland is about how to juggle their ever increasing workload commitments with Continuous Learning. Sometimes it can appear to be a low priority. What our Subject matter experts recommend is to to carve out discretionary time in your day. Devote 30 minutes of your day to learning. Surprisingly you will have time to read 15-20 books in a year and you can keep up with the most important blogs or articles that you have identified from the thought leaders in your field.

Padraig Berry from the Complete Leader Ireland faculty reads a book a week as part of his Continuous Learning plan. He speed reads and finds it very effective.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated. Think about what would help you advance dramatically in your current role? What’s one area that if I really went deep into it would make me more effective?

Secondly what do I want my next role to be? Where do I want to be in 3 years and how can I start learning about that now? Continuous Learning is a necessity not a luxury. Develop your own learning rhythm.




What if you could have hindsight in advance? After your project has failed is the wrong time to ask yourself what has gone wrong so we recommend the pre-mortem for ongoing learning.

Ask your Team: ‘What’s our most important project right now? Visualise it and then let’s imagine it falls flat, it’s dead.

Now you have to ask the questions: Why? What went wrong? What were the challenges that caused the eventual failure and what did plan did we make to overcome them?

The best way to do this is to block off time, at least 2 hours. It works best done face to face with all your stakeholders and always have one person to record and/or take notes.

Ironically it actually works not to kill off plans but to strengthen them according to Matthew Syed.


Be open to New Perspectives


Do you remember the story of Galileo? He asked Christian scholars to look through his telescope to see new evidence and they refused to do so. Confronted with evidence that challenged their existing beliefs, they shut their eyes! This is called Cognitive Dissonance and something we need to pay attention to.

Be aware of becoming entrenched in your own opions and beliefs. Galileo was trying to show the christians a new perspective. How open are you to new perspectives? Do you find yourself resisting? Do you have a mentor or a coach who can give you genuine feedback and keep you growing?


Mentally create your future


Take some time out to identify your Stretch Goals. If you had a magic wand, what would you do? Who would you be? Consider all the key roles in your life: work, family, community, spiritual and social. This brain storm will really inform your Continuous Learning Plan, revisit it and allow more ideas to pour forth.


Become a Learning Champion


Become a Learning Champion in your organisation. Begin with informal lunches to promote Continuous Learning. Invite your staff or other interested people. The topic can be a thought leader’s relevant book or a conference you just attended. Discuss any interesting courses that you have come across online or recent podcasts and Ted talks. Get your learning juices flowing.

Ron Price had a colleague who allowed his employees a half hour a day reading time from a list of personal and professional development books. Additionally once a quarter they were allowed an entire day devoted to reading. Ron’s colleague truly believed it was an investment not a cost to himself, he credits it as one of the key components of his long-term business.


Continuous Learning

Keep up with the Millennials


By 2025 Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. They are known for being happy at work and prefer organisations that value their wellbeing and career progression. Being the technology savvy generation, millennials are constantly learning online and are said to value and be motivated by employer offered tuition reimbursement. In fact job satisfaction rates boost from 40% – 50% when comparing degree holders (4 years) to those who hadn’t studied for a degree. As a leader making sure our workforce stays motivated is vital, by creating an ongoing learning culture, you are paving the way.


Apply your Learning


Adult learning comes mainly from experience. Leaders don’t learn for learning sake, this does not aid our success. Leaders learn so that we can apply the learning to make better decisions, to determine our actions, to improve our conceptual thinking, ultimately to enhance our work and life serving not just ourselves but those around us.

“When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. The words deliberate and intention are key here because they define the difference between actively practicing something and passively learning it.”

Thomas Sterner, The Practicing Mind


Final Thoughts


If we want to succeed as Leaders we need to embrace a mindset for Growth and Continuous Learning.

Get comfortable with Failure. Adopt Black Box thinking. Mind your human addiction to being right. Develop a Plan, chunk it down, plan it out smartly and stick with it.

Try out Pre-mortems to develop the hindsight perspective, beware of entrenched beliefs and opinions, brainstorm your aspirations, get others onboard, especially Millennials and lastly apply your learning.

‘ In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future’

Eric Hoffer

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