Self-talk is not often covered as a leadership topic, but Erika Andersen cites it as one of the most important skills to master.
Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a firm that focuses on leader readiness. She’s the author of three other books: Leading So People Will Follow, Being Strategic, and Growing Great Employees. All of her books are full of actionable advice from her three decades of advising and coaching executives.
I recently spoke with her about her tips to manage our internal conversations.
Leadership Tip: listening and mastering self-talk are critical skills for leaders.
Let’s talk about managing your self-talk. How important is managing self-talk?
Critically important. If I had to name the two most valuable skills I’ve learned over the past thirty years, I’d pick listening and managing my self-talk. It’s enormously powerful to be able to recognize and shift how you’re talking to yourself about yourself and your circumstances. It allows you to have much more control over how you respond to what happens within you and around you.
You give 4 steps to managing it: Recognize. Record. Rethink. Repeat.
Yes, here’s how it works:
Recognize: In order to manage your self-talk, you have to “hear” it. Unless you’re aware of this internal monologue, it’s impossible to change it. For instance, let’s say you’re feeling incurious about something you need to learn. You notice your mental voice saying, This is so boring – I can’t possibly focus on this enough to learn it. Once you start attending to the voice in your head, and recognizing what it’s saying, you can begin to do something about it.
Success Tip: writing down your self-talk is a key part of managing it.
Almost every conference I have attended in the last ten years has highlighted the rapid changes that we are experiencing in every aspect of society. Companies need to evaluate digital futures, new technologies, and global strategies. Individuals need to develop plans to keep developing their skills.
How do we best deal with this constant pace of change?
Brad Staats is an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. His new book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, provides the framework to help all of us become dynamic learners. He says that, “If we fail to learn, we risk becoming irrelevant.”
He also says that we aren’t so great at learning.
I recently spoke with him about his extensive research into learning.
“One of the most powerful ways we can learn from others is to ask, ‘What do you think?’ and be open to the answer.” -Bradley Staats
Why is learning more important today than in past generations?
Learning has always been a key competitive differentiator. What has changed is that things are moving faster and increasingly we are in a winner take all (or at least most) environment. There are four factors I’d highlight that are driving these changes. The first is routinization. Through the use of technology (information and otherwise) we can knock out repeatable tasks. That means our attention can turn to new things where we can innovate. If one looks at job changes in the US over the last 30 years, the data reveals that routine jobs are flat and growth has only occurred in the non-routine settings.
The second driver is specialization. Knowledge around us is increasing, often exponentially. It is estimated a physician would need to read 29 hours a day to stay current on all the necessary knowledge. So we are forced to pick areas to dig in. The third driver is globalization. In the 1990’s, in particular, the global economy opened up as countries like India, Russia, Brazil and China flooded the global labor market with talented individuals. Success is no longer a local affair, it is a global one. Finally, we have digitization. We can capture knowledge digitally and share it around the world. All of these factors mean that great products and services can quickly capture markets and squeeze out others—so we have to learn if we are going to stay relevant. As Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has said, “Ultimately, the ‘learn-it-all’ will always do better than the ‘know-it-all.’”
“Whatever we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” -Otto Rank
Those who aspire to be successful quickly realize that individual performance isn’t usually enough. Only a team of committed individuals can accomplish great things. So a leader’s job turns to finding, selecting, and cultivating an amazing team.
If you wonder whether you are performing at your best, look at your team. My philosophy has always been that, if they are growing, your company will follow.
“Successful business leaders prioritize talent-development as a recruitment tool in the same way top athletic coaches do.” -Whitney Johnson
One way to tell whether you are growing is to look at where your team falls on the S curve. Based on Whitney Johnson’s proprietary research around disruption, every organization is a collection of individual S – or learning – curves. You build high performing team by optimizing these individual curves, including yours. In her book, Build an A-Team, you will learn how to manage people all along the S-curve and what to do when they reach the top of the curve. As employees are allowed, even required, to surf their individual S-curve waves, disrupting themselves, you will not only be less vulnerable to disruption, you’ll also be a boss people want to work for.
“The mind and skill-expanding opportunity motivates great engagement more than money or accolades.” -Whitney Johnson
After the release of your last book, Disrupt Yourself, you traveled and met the leaders of many organizations. As you spoke with them, what surprised you most?
Many people feel stuck, like a genie corked in a lamp; if somebody (usually their boss) would just pull that cork, they could make magic. They say, “I’m ready to disrupt myself. How can I persuade my boss to let me?” Or, “How can I get my team to disrupt themselves? How can I get my boss on board with that?” In Build an A Team I answer these questions and address the fact that, in most cases, fear of failure is the cork. We may be the cork in the bottle—our own, and our employees’.
“Want to know if you are about to be disrupted? Take the pulse of your workforce.” -Whitney Johnson
Donna Steffey, MBA, CPLP, president of Vital Signs Consulting, is an international trainer, author, facilitator of the ATD Master Trainer™ Program, and adjunct faculty member at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
“Cultural Intelligence develops intentionally with your commitment to increasing your global mindset.” -Donna Steffey
How are the major trends in technology and globalization impacting the field of training?
The traditional face-to-face classroom training is now less than half of all training done. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) 2017 State of the Industry report, that means that 51% of training is delivered via webinars, mobile, self-paced online, or other methods like DVDs or Podcasts. This represents a 10% change in the last 5 years away from traditional classroom training. With over 300 multi-national organizations employing over 35 million people around the globe, online technologies really do become the best method for reaching remote employees.
We see a trend toward mobile learning with 67% of people saying they now use mobile devices to access learning. What is interesting is that only 20% of organizations have formal mobile learning programs.
A trend known as micro-learning is becoming popular to shorten the path from learning to succeeding. Micro-learning is a bite-sized chunk of learning lasting 3-10 minutes and only covering 1-2 crucial points. It often includes interactivity and testing. According to the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, micro-learning improves retention by 20%.
67 percent of people use mobile devices to access learning.
Design thinking is one way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers. It helps solve wicked problems. Those are the type that are especially insidious and difficult.
In a new book by Jeanne Liedtka, Daisy Azer, and Randy Salzman, Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector, the authors take on the challenge of applying design thinking to the social sector. The principles apply to all organizations and may help you reach a breakthrough in your organization. I recently spoke with Randy Salzman about their research. Randy is a journalist and former communications professor. His work has been published in over one hundred magazines, journals, and newspapers, from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Mother Jones, Bicycling, and Style.
Design thinking is a modern version of what was once common, a method of addressing and solving problems outside of normal professional siloes. After about 500 years of ever-greater specialization, society is recognizing that wicked problems lie between the professions, between those siloes, and that most “answers” require a grasp of human behavior and a willingness to deeply understand the entire problem, not just “my” professional aspect of it. Design thinking, often called human-centered design, asks us to explore deeply, empathize continually, ideate rapidly, prototype simply and iterate constantly in order to address the problems that bedevil us. Unlike, for example, LEAN and most analytical methods of addressing problems, design thinking seeks to hold problem-solvers in the question space, rather than rapidly jumping to an answer as most Type A personalities – who corporate leaders tend to be — do. Reframing the question, exploring it deeply—and especially building solid empathy with users and other stakeholders—allows design thinkers to find unarticulated needs and desires and build solutions—tapping into unintentionally hidden aspects of human behavior. In today’s “quantitative” planning world, design thinking seeks to return to “qualitative” understanding of both bigger, and littler, picture issues.
It is being used today all over the world in a variety of very different organizations. Would you give us a few examples?
While many know of the success of Intuit, 3M, Proctor and Gamble and other major corporations in producing new products and services via design thinking approaches, less is known about the problem-solving methodology’s work outside of product development, and in social sector and government organizations. Today, many U.S. government bureaucracies – from Health and Human Services, the VA, even the armed forces – are today seeking to understand the people they serve at a much deeper level than treating people as numbers using a quantitative statistical approach. Non-profits, hospitals, and educational institutions are also adapting their thinking towards design-thinking’s “possibility first, constraints later” approach to problem solving. For instance, The Kingwood Trust in the United Kingdom is using design thinking to sense and adapt to the needs of autistic adults who cannot use written or oral language to even express their likes or dislikes, and involving them in the design of their living spaces. The Community Transportation Association of America is using it to build local capacity to solve the work-transport needs of lower income employees. Monash University Hospital in Australia has completed a dozen design thinking projects and are presently engaged in solving the truly “wicked” problem of how medical providers can deliver and be compensated for wellness instead of for providing interventions. All these stories are in our book, Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector. But the stories are too many to fit into any book. We only touched on the New Zealand government’s culture-wide tipping to design thinking. Most governmental ministries in that Pacific nation have a design-thinking shop aimed at exploring deeply and empathizing continually with the stakeholders they serve.
We like to talk in terms of a shift from “Innovation I” to “Innovation II” and liken to this shift to the one that occurred in quality, post WWWII. In the same way that quality was originally the realm of specialists and then gradually (facilitated by TQM) spread to the point where, today, quality is everyone’s job up and down the organization, innovation is increasingly seen as belonging to those outside of research & development and senior executives. For organizations to adapt and thrive in today’s climate of political and economic uncertainty and challenge, we submit that all staffers, all employees, need the training and authority to innovate. It must become a core organizational capability. In this environment of broadened responsibility for finding new ways to create value for stakeholders, design thinking can do for innovation what TQM did for quality – help us to teach, scale and democratize it.
Certainly, possibilities for innovation are accelerating for a variety of technological reasons, from big data to computing capacities. There has been less attention to the human dimension, to the awareness that flawed human beings do not behave like the so-called “rational consumers” the quantitative planning world was based on. As the authors of Nudge put it, man is not “homo economous” but “homo sapiens,” and until thinkers began to understand that most of us act without thinking – rationally or otherwise – very little qualitative understanding of human behavior was considered by “garage” and other technological innovators. Now—in what some are calling the “Smart Machine Age”—there is an awareness that every idea and every concept needs accompaniment from a social technology which aids in its spread. We think of design thinking as a social technology for change. As more and more business, governments, organizations recognize that a qualitative understanding of their stakeholders is needed, design thinking opens up a new kind of conversation that creates space for innovation to birth and blossom.