Our Next Generation of Leaders
Our Next Generation of Leaders
I had the pleasure of connecting with a bunch of them this week here in my home town of Montreal, Canada.
They were conveniently gathered within a 20-minute drive from my house, assuming no snow or ice storms :(.
How accommodating of You all. Thanks 🙂
All joking aside. It was a pleasure and privilege to have had this opportunity to connect with them.
My coaching and storytelling business is mainly virtual so it is always fun to meet people in person 🙂
The participants were from 36 MBA schools representing 18 countries from around the world.
You can just imagine how many different languages and cultures were represented.
They were participating in Concordia University’s 36th Annual MBA International Case Competition (ICC).
It is one of the longest running and one of the largest business strategy case competitions of its kind in the world.
Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting over 150 MBA students and their coaches, and all of the student organizers for the event.
But in my role as a judge at the competition, I also had the pleasure of connecting with a lot of my peers from the business community who were also judging.
Peers with experience and insights from all kinds of different organizations and industries.
Both genders were also represented on the judging panel. Not quite 50/50 yet but that is the goal (it was closer to 40% this year).
By The Way (BTW). Hats off to Valerie, Aali, Brandon, Suha, Mohamed and the rest of the 2017 MBA ICC Organization team for putting on a great event. The amount of effort that goes into the event Is huge.
This was not my first time attending the event.
I was on the team representing Concordia in 1996 when I was studying for my MBA.
BTW. I was the only Martian (a.k.a. Male) on my team. I guess inclusion was not as important in 1996. 🙂
I was a student volunteer for the 15th edition of the Competition in 1995.
I have been judging ever since.
I have been part of well over 40 cases throughout the years, mainly as a judge (the less stressful of the roles :)).
I keep my name tags as a souvenir, as you can see by the picture that I have selected for this blog.
I have amassed quite the collection.
This background as participant and judge has provided me with an interesting perspective on the event and the participants.
A perspective developed from participating on both sides of the judges table over those many years, observing many different participants from many different countries.
At least I think I have an interesting perspective and since I am the writer, editor and poster of this post, I am going to share my Point of View (POV) with you :).
In this case, I am going to share with you My POV on the following
- My top 4 takeaways from the competition as it relates to the development of our next generation of leaders
- A challenge to all of you on how you can help the development of our future leaders
But first, a bit of background and context on the importance of our next generation of leaders and leadership in general (again, my POV :)).
Leadership is top of mind to ME these days for many reasons, not the least of which is that I have launched a virtual workshop on the topic with one of my colleagues.
Why leadership as a topic?
Apparently, there is a need for stronger leaders.
Apparently, there is a gap.
Apparently, there is a desire to close the gap.
Here are a few data points.
The authors of a McKinsey Quarterly article entitled “Why leadership-development programs fail” shared some interesting statistics on the leadership front as follows:
- U.S. Companies alone spend almost $14 billion annually on leadership development.
- Colleges and universities offer hundreds of degree courses on leadership, and the cost of customized leadership-development offerings from a top business school can reach $150,000 a person.
- When upward of 500 executives were asked to rank their top three human-capital priorities, leadership development was included as both a current and a future priority. Almost two-thirds of the respondents identified leadership development as their number-one concern.
- Only 7 percent of senior managers polled by a UK business school think that their companies develop global leaders effectively.
- 30 percent of US companies admit that they have failed to exploit their international business opportunities fully because they lack enough leaders with the right capabilities.
Leadership was the number 2 priority identified in Deloitte’s most recent Global Human Capital Trends 2016 study
- Fully 89 percent of executives in this year’s survey rated the need to strengthen, reengineer, and improve organizational leadership as an important priority.
Three of the top 10 most popular articles on the “McKinsey Quarterly: This year’s 10 most popular articles” list were related to leadership. BTW… 6 of the 10 are more broadly related to talent and people.
Those are a few statistics.
I am sure that there are many more out there.
Leadership, or lack thereof, has figured prominently over the past few years now.
Hopefully my focus on leadership and our next generation of leaders in this blog can help out somewhat.
Given that this is a business case competition, my main focus of this blog will be on leadership in the context of a business or organizational setting.
However, leadership is not confined to business.
Our leadership skills and styles are equally important outside of the workplace.
And although the focus of this Blog/Story/POST/Article/POV/Rant on shaping the next generation of leaders has a focus on MBA students it does not have to start here.
As I pointed out in one of my previous blogs on leadership, the top Five Traits of a Leader), we (i.e. parents, elementary and high school teachers and sport coaches) start shaping our next generation at a much earlier age, or at least have the opportunity to do so.
The statistics at the beginning of this blog suggest that we apparently have much room for improvement.
But back to the competition and the participants
A lot of time has passed since my time on the team, 21 years for those of you who are counting.
A lot has changed during that time.
One thing that has remained constant though is the energy and enthusiasm of the students.
It is contagious :).
So, what are some of the challenges facing our next generation of leaders?
What are some of the opportunities and enablers that can help them make an impact?
Without further ado, here are my top 4 takeaways from the competition as it relates to the development of our next generation of leaders:
Takeaway #1: Change is not the only constant, so is the need for ongoing learning and growth (L&G)
Many of us in the corporate world are familiar with the acronym L&G. It stands for Learning and Growth.
In some organizations, it comes under the purview of specific groups and individuals.
It is often a very formal and structured process.
A lot of it is steeped in theory, class room based and offered only periodically.
Upon completion of the course, the participants are encouraged to apply what they have learned that day moving forward and to fill out a feedback form.
The support for learning ends there.
The encouragement seems to end there as well despite the plea to please apply what you have learned.
Well you know what?
From what I have experienced, from what I have observed, from what I have heard and from what I have read, that does not work.
Not any more anyway.
Not sure it ever did.
People “learn” by doing.
They learn by applying the theory and receiving feedback on their approach.
And then it is back to the drawing board
Practice. Feedback. Reflect. Adjust. Celebrate. Practice. Stumble. Input. Reflect. Fail. Practice. Celebrate. Practice. Practice. GROW.
This applies to both learning and growth on both the personal and professional level.
The learning never stops.
And it is only by applying it and seeking feedback and reflecting on what we are observing and feeling that allows us to learn and adapt.
The learning by doing approach is probably why I so much enjoy the case competition and case based approach to learning.
The approach is designed to create learning by doing.
Complement the learning with timely and constructive feedback from your team mates, team coaches and a bunch of judges from the Montreal business community and Voila, you have a magic formula for learning.
And by applying and learning, I am talking about learning the skills that are the most relevant.
The World Economic Forum has produced a report that predicts what the employment landscape will look like in 2020 after talking to chief human resources and strategy officers from leading global employers.
The list is below.
I have highlighted those that I observed the participants leveraging at the competition
The top 10 skills in 2020 will be:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgment and decision-making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Hopefully the learning (i.e. practice, feedback, reflect etc..) continues post competition.
We often mean well but despite our best intentions when push comes to shove our L&G goals are often the first casualty.
I hope that the students continue to avail themselves to other opportunities for this type of learning by doing experience as they continue to learn and grow in their careers.
More and more organizations are complementing one time formal group learning with group follow up sessions and one-on-one coaching and mentoring.
If your organization does not offer this type of support then create your own opportunities to seek feedback and guidance, through your peer network, mentors and coaching.
I heard the term “Ecosystem” mentioned during the competition, often, and in many contexts.
I am sensing that there is a new “learning ecosystem” shaping up out there.
Learning by doing. Making the theory real by applying it in a “safe zone”. Mastermind groups among peers. Just in time learning offerings. Mentoring. Coaching. Playing to ones strengths and leadership styles Etc.
Learning and growth does not end with one’s Diploma. It is continuous.
If change is constant it would seem to imply that one must constantly continue to learn new things, not only to grow but to avoid falling behind.
How about that for a plug for maintaining a growth mindset :).
Takeaway #2: The Importance of community and connectivity
Year in and year out, I am always surprised by all the great ideas and insights that come from both the participants and the judges.
The solutions and execution approaches that are explored by the teams are so much larger when viewed from a broader lens than MY own, admittedly, very narrowly focused one.
The questions and challenges from my fellow judges allow me to explore dimensions that I never would have thought of by myself.
It really reminds me of the importance of being more “inclusive”.
In this case “including” a lot more lenses into the generation of your ideas and possible solutions.
The concept of community and connection have really been top of mind for me at the competition this year.
Maybe it was because this is the first year in which I have launched my own practice?
Although a sole proprietor model, I don’t ever remember connecting with as many peers and collaborators as I have this year.
I was amazed at how willing people were to share ideas with me and how eager they were to help.
I can’t believe how much I learn at each and every one of these touchpoints.
I would not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my community.
By community, I am referring to the sub-set of my network who I have developed or I am in the process of developing a trusted relationship.
The intent is to develop a trusted business relationship but it often spills over into a personal relationship as well.
I am truly grateful to have the support of such a community.
I value it among my greatest assets.
The importance of networking had been hammered into me for many, many years but it is only recently that I actully got it.
The term networking used to scare me.
Meeting new people scared me, terrified me on occasions.
Today, now that I have stepped out of my comfort zone and started reaching out, I have found that not only is it not scary, it is actually fun.
I will explore this transition from fear to fun on the networking front in a future blog but for now suffice it to say that I am pleased to be where I am now.
Took me a while to get here. I turn 52 in a couple of weeks,
But better late than never 🙂
For the rest of you, especially those of you starting out on this new chapter of your professional journey, I encourage you all to leverage your networks to develop and nurture your own communities.
Can you say “Linked- in”.
I can picture the linked in requests going back and forth from all the participants and judges as I sit here and type :).
Reach out and connect folks!
Virtually and when the opportunity arises, in person.
But don’t let physical proximity be your barrier.
Whether you are aware of it or not, the wonder of technology has made the world your oyster.
That brings me to my third takeaway.
Takeaway #3: The world is Your/Our oyster
The escalating pace of Globalization is giving new meaning to the term “to be inclusive”.
Technology is a huge enabler in making this happen.
In my previous role as Program Director for a Global Relationship building program I was connecting with people from all over the world, all from the comfort of my office at home in Montreal.
Many of these contacts are still part of my community today.
We connect and share on a regular basis through virtual coffee and tea chats and an occasional virtual cocktail wine and cheese 🙂
Yet I have not met a lot of them yet.
Speaking of virtual collaboration.
My coach lives in the U.S., in Portland Oregon.
In addition to being my coach, we are also collaborating on the leadership workshops.
Virtual workshops with an inclusive mix of participants from many different countries.
Coaching, Collaborating, Learning. Who knows, if we keep up this level of connectivity,
I might actually end up meeting Shawna one of these days 🙂
You are no longer limited to connecting with people who live or work close by.
I would argue that given the level of complexity that globalization is creating that you will be limiting your ability to grow if you do.
You are also limiting yourself on the opportunity front as well.
The world truly is your oyster.
Your next contact is only a phone (or skype or facetime) call away.
Just don’t forget the time zone 🙂
Oh, and don’t forget to be sensitive to cultural differences.
I now have a real appreciation for the importance of culture and how it influences the way people like to communicate and collaborate and share etc..
Ignore cultural differences and the power of culture at your own peril 🙁
As someone mentioned during the competition.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Takeaway #4: The importance of curiosity.
I was reminded of the importance of curiosity on almost a daily basis while taking my coaching courses. There was even a course devoted solely to what seems to becoming a lost art.
The course was aptly named: Questioning.
To me, the opposite of questioning something is to put the “kibosh” on something.
As judges at the competition we are constantly reminded to be careful not to tear down the ideas of the team during the question and answer period.
Apparently, there is often a tendency to look at the problem and solution through our own lens and then proceed to drill away with our perceived solution or outcome in mind.
Yikes. Sounds a good way to develop tunnel vision.
Our role as judges is to work with the students in exploring their recommendation by asking probing questions and challenging them when it makes sense.
One might argue that this approach would work well in other situations as well.
And not just for judging purposes but for leadership purposes.
Think of someone that you identify as a strong leader.
How are they able to inspire and empower you and/or your team in coming up with and executing on great ideas and creative solutions?
Is it by telling you that you should do what they think you should do? Which is often based on what they have done in the past.That might be the expedient thing to do in some people’s minds but is it really the best way to come up with the best way forward and more importantly inspiring the team to head in that direction.
I am reading a book on leadership called “Multipliers: How the best Leaders make everyone smarter”.
The opposite of a “Multiplier” is called a diminisher.
I have not yet finished the book but I am ready to put forward a hypothesis.
My hypothesis is that Multipliers are curious, and that curiosity attracts people to them that are also curious.
Curious and excited to challenge the status quo and look for new and innovative ways to grow.
Have you heard that term mentioned recently 🙂
Note to the case competition organizers.
Continue to hammer away on us judges on the importance of turning off our biases when formulating our questions.
In the meantime, I am going to continue to practice my questioning skills.
You guessed it.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
So, there you have it.
My top 4 take-aways.
I hope that I have chosen well
There were so many more that I could have written about.
Oh well there is always next January 🙂
So, now, are you ready for your challenge?
My challenge to You (and Me)
Since I have leadership on my mind in a big way these days and the fact that I have named this blog (a.k.a. short story), “Our Next Generation of Business Leaders”, my challenge will be related to exactly that, helping to develop our Next Generation of Leaders”.
There is a cartoon with a quote that I have stuck on the wall in my office.
“You are not a leader until you have produced another leader who can produce another leader”.
So, my challenge to you is this.
Look around at the people in your place of work.
Identify someone who you think would benefit from your help in taking them to the next level in developing their leadership skills and help them develop.
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, we seem to have a current shortage in the leadership space. Here is your opportunity to help out, and maybe even improve your own leadership skills in the process 🙂
When done, ask them to “pay it forward”. I.e. Challenge them to produce another leader.
Together, we might be able to put a bit of a dent in this leadership gap.
Well, that’s all folks.
Looking at making a positive CHANGE in YOUR Life?
What would that change be?
MAKING THAT CHANGE A REALITY!
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References used in this blog:
The Future of Jobs by The World Economic Forum
McKinsey Quarterly: “This year’s 10 most popular articles”
Why leadership-development programs fail: By Pierre Gurdjian, Thomas Halbeisen, and Kevin Lane. McKinsey Quarterly January 2014.
Global Human Capital Trends 2016 The new organization: Different by design. Deloitte
Multipliers: How the best Leaders make everyone smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown
Mindset by Carol Dweck