Game Changer

By: Sean McDonald
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At MOR Associates, we provide a platform upon which leaders take their leadership abilities to the next level, to up their game.  We provide a design and a set of experiences that support people in making sustainable improvements in their behavior as leaders. Of the several thousand participants in MOR Leadership related programs, although we are proud of our 100% satisfaction score, we are ecstatic to share that more than half report the opportunity has resulted in either a game-changing or transformational change in their leadership abilities.

So what does that mean – to have a game-changing experience, a transformational change in how they lead?  What we’ve seen is increased capability and realization of potential in ways that allow people to contribute at an increasing level. This paper sets out to outline what ‘game changer’ has meant for our clients, and what, within the experience they have with MOR, creates this outcome.

What is a Game Changer? 

Game changing experiences cause people – and ultimately their institutions – to fundamentally shift their perspectives, belief systems, and practices in the service of uncovering what was previously unknown, and achieving what was previously not seen as possible. 

This means different things to different people. 

  1. For some, a game changing experience means breaking through self-imposed boundaries to see what is possible for them and to reach new heights.  It’s developing a new mindset. 
  2. For others, it means acquiring and mastering a new set of tools or know-how to see leading in a new light, and reach a new level of effectiveness in their leadership. 
  3. And finally, it can mean the combination of new mindset and tools to skillfully expand their reach as leaders to truly affect change in their organization. 

Advances for three sets of capabilities – Mindset, Toolset, and Skillset – form the foundation of MOR’s game-changing leadership development experiences.  Let’s dive a little deeper into what we learned from out clients about each area. 

Mindset

Although these three capabilities complement and build on each other, the shift in mindset is often the most foundational change that we see in developing leaders.  That is the transformation that truly changes when you develop as a leader.   The inner belief within their own mind.  The expression “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” relates to this inner belief of leadership. 

Before they can lead, many people must re-wire the narrative in their head by reflecting on, identifying, and obliterating the self-imposed boundaries that have held them back. Consider, for example, these comments from recent participants regarding the aspects of our program that most led to their development: 

  • “The program challenged me to stop “waiting until...”.  This is really important for me, as I’ve always thought of myself as a reluctant leader. The practical guidance of presence and preparation has challenged my thinking about whether leadership is inbred or developed. Through daily practice, I’m now thinking about myself as a developing leader.”
  • “I gave myself permission to lead sooner than I would have before I took the program. I didn’t ‘wait to be tapped on the shoulder’ as (my coach) so aptly described it. I also doubt myself much less often.”
  • “The program allowed me to speak up and lead from where I am. It showed me my true value to my institution.”
  • “The greatest benefit to me has been to recognize myself as having a valid seat at the table.”

Several themes emerge from these comments and many more like them.  One theme is about taking initiative.  Not waiting to be “tapped on the shoulder,” but instead they now recognize that it’s up to them to seize the moment. With new tools and practices to support them, they step forward.  They know they must step up to tackle that intractable issue, or take advantage of an opportunity. They view themselves, their role, and how they can be successful in that role – differently.  

Another theme within the mindset transformation is confidence.  The confidence that emerges from seeing oneself in a new light.  It’s the confidence from realizing that, “Yes, I am a leader.  I do have a valid seat at the table, my contributions matter and I will be heard.”

Two additional client comments:

  • “The program was a tipping point for me in developing confidence and presence in a multitude of professional settings, being fully engaged in meetings and more comfortable expressing my opinions and ideas.”
  • “Confidence was a focus area for me. I was relatively new to my role when I started the program and have never been good at ‘fake it until you make it’. This program has helped me find my voice and be able to make the necessary changes to start to move my team forward.”

Having increased confidence in one’s leadership and stepping out of a comfort zone to take initiative, when previously one would not have, are complete game changers for how we lead. These choices, these shifts in mindset, though seemingly simple, are extremely challenging. They take practice, support, and the right tools to make it happen.

Toolset

There is truth to the saying “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You Always Get What You’ve Always Gotten.” New practices and a new toolset are part of the path forward. But developing a new toolset is more than simply learning about new methods and models.  It’s more than just the “blocking and tackling” of management.  It’s beyond just learning new frameworks of how to have certain conversations.  The real game-changing happens when you use them, when you apply what you learn, over and over, in service of your leadership development goals. Persistence, reflection, and adjustments are all needed. After all, they also say old habits are hard to break.

Take for example, our rooted beliefs about how we connect, engage and communicate with other people.  Many people think of giving and receiving feedback as painful.  But what if we can help leaders understand that feedback is the only way to truly learn and grow.  From that perspective, leaders shift their entire mental model from “Feedback is Painful” to “Feedback is a Gift.”  In conjunction with others, practicing a shared language, shared tools, they begin to collectively embrace feedback. It changes the game as people move from a closed system with little understanding of how others perceive them to a more open system that can lead to continuous improvement.

Similarly, many people avoid delegating work because they see it as just dumping work on others or overloading already busy staff.  But to embrace delegation, leaders must first believe in it.  They must be willing to let go and change their perspective to “Delegation is Development.”   This change in thinking - combined with specific frameworks, tactics, and how-to’s - enable them for increased success.  

Once leaders change the way they think about themselves, their role, and management itself and they begin to put these new abilities into action –  a magical thing happens.  Their beliefs trickle out to others.  Through skillful techniques like coaching, feedback, and delegation, team members believe in themselves and their mission.  They too take more initiative.  Leaders are then free to spend more time focused on the important versus the immediate, scanning the environment for risks and opportunities, and setting strategic direction.  This shift in roles and how time is spent becomes a virtuous cycle that yields potentially game-changing benefits for the leader, their team, and the organization. 

Here are some additional comments from program participants:

  • “Focusing on delegation and feedback has improved teamwork and produced better results. For example, each member of the team has assumed an area of technology expertise and is the go to person when issues arise and is also driving the service road map. This helped us become more customer success oriented (proactive) in addition to providing great customer service (reactive).”
  • “In the practice of providing regular feedback, both positive and negative, the culture of micro-adjustment develops. The more immediate, in-context feedback produces less stress, and allows staff and colleagues to better understand each other and how best work together productively.”

Skillset

Another potentially game-changing element of this experience leaders realize is that they succeed when others succeed. Leaders realize success is less about themselves and individual acts and more so about the collective. A leaders’ success means advancing the organizational mission, not their own agenda.  This requires drawing upon the totality of their new leadership skillset to set a course for change and mobilize others in it. 

Clearly, to get results in distributed environments and complex structures, relationships are the coin of the realm.  We often see MOR participants exert extra effort in (and reap the rewards from) developing relationships up, down, and across their institutions.  They ask questions. They offer support.  They connect the disconnected.  They set up communities of practice to encourage people to “play up a level,” share their ideas and take on their own initiatives.  They cultivate peer networks in their organization and through their MOR community to support them.   Through these practices, they evolve cultural norms from “I to We” and from “Mine to Ours.”   Without being asked, they are building leadership community.

People start pulling in the same direction.  And while it may not seem like much at first, these little shifts, these smaller moments, this continued practice of new leadership skills, generates momentum.  Momentum happens when people believe that positive change is possible and they see their role in it.  It’s an excitement and a buzz that’s hard to stop. 

Momentum is the ultimate game-changer!

So let’s revisit the definition of a game changing experience. The MOR Leaders design provides participants with the platform, the coaching and the experiences that empower the learner to fundamentally shift their perspectives, belief systems, capability levels and practices in service of uncovering what was previously unknown, and achieving what previously seemed impossible. 

If you are about to embark on a MOR Associates journey, and you are open to it, you can expect to view the world through different lenses.  For example, you’ll see the world through the eyes of those in your cohort who will share their journey’s ups and downs and will support you in yours.  You’ll make connections to others and to new concepts – both of which will inspire and awaken you.   You’ll see how people relate to you differently when you change your mindset and apply a new toolset to your interactions.   You’ll inspire others and draw inspiration from that!  And finally, if you want to and are willing, you can expect to achieve breakthroughs that will up your game. 

We wish you the best in your leadership journey and hope we can support you in uncovering what was previously unknown, and achieving what may have previously seemed impossible. 

 

 

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