Nearly all CEOs and managers want their teams to be more strategic, more thoughtful and more team-like. They hire and fire people, restructure departments and teams, throw expensive two-day strategic-thinking retreats and tend to be disappointed by the results. New hires go down in flames, new structures create more havoc than help and strategies devised during two-day retreats evaporate the first day back at the office.
The best way to foster more strategic thinking, more creativity and more team work within your work force is to focus on developing your teams and increasing their capacity to deal with complexity.
It might take a while, but it works
The number one argument against this is that it takes a long time. It’s true: developing people does take a long time. However, developing people actually works. It will better support the retreats, the restructuring and the fresh strategies will work too.
Research from fields such as adult development, leadership and neuroscience, all suggest that adult capacity for deep change – from our brains to our behaviours – is greater than most of us can imagine. Research is showing us it’s possible for adults to change, to be able to be more sophisticated, more empathic and wiser.
It’s also showing us the mechanisms by which the development happens. Just as we know there are certain activities which will build your body and make your stronger and more flexible, there are activities which will build your mind and also make it stronger and more flexible.
We’re never too old to change
There is also mounting evidence that we’re never too old to change. Our brains continue to grow all our lives, with big bursts of development in midlife. Adult development theory suggests it takes time and effort to grow our most sophisticated perspectives and that sophisticated perspectives don’t generally rest with the young.
Theorists around the world talk about the forms of understanding through which we see the world. Those forms change and grow over time as we get better able to handle complexity and ambiguity, as we get more able to take multiple perspectives, see connections and patterns where once we would have noticed only differences and discrete points.
Leadership development - with a focus on development - is the development of increasing perspectives, and helps people grow into larger and more complex versions of themselves. Simple practices like asking different questions or taking multiple perspectives will not only help you in the present with better relationships and business results, they will also sustain change long into the future.
By focusing on developing leadership in our teams we can start to increase the capacity for change resulting in higher levels of strategic thinking and implementation, closer-knit teams and more successful business outcomes.
Dr. Jennifer Garvey Berger is a Facilitator for The Leadership Circle Asia Pacific. A global leader in the applied adult development field, Jennifer teaches and speaks about leadership at places like Lucasfilm, the Commonwealth Club, and the Centre for Public Leadership at Harvard University. She uses theory and practice knowledge to help individuals and teams transform themselves and their organisations, and she writes about these ideas (her new book is Changing on the job: Developing leaders for a complex world). Jennifer earned a masters and a doctorate from Harvard University.