Innovative leadership using Theory U

Theory U is a  process for innovative change in teams, organisations, and communities. It helps us tackle our toughest  unresolved challenges. It offers fantastic insights to leaders too, about how to bring about meaningful change and innovation.

A bit about me and TheoryU

 I have  been learning about Theory U since 2015.  I had co-led MIT’s version of Theory U, u.lab and had the pleasure of meeting and connecting  on projects with MIT’s Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer, who wrote  when he visited the UK.

I have also led  innovation projects  in the UK, based on TheoryU.  This was part of my work on community and on climate change.

TheoryU: A framework for innovation

Innovation enables us to be resilient…and resilience gives us the strength to innovate. In a time of volatility, uncertainty, adversity and chaos we all need processes to help us to develop leadership,  collaboration as well as facing our  challenges.

Theory U enables you to connect with innovations that come from a meaningful place rather than knee-jerk reactions. It is one approach that offers both an innovation framework and a collaborative approach for teams and leaders. You can read about one of the TheoryU tools and how we used it at a day learning event here.

What are the leadership lessons in TheoryU?

When you take part in a TheoryU type process you will experience  – rather than hear about  – the lessons.  They are to be lived.  In the absence of that happening here and now, here is a quick summary….

Deep listening  and paying attention

This one won’t be a surprise – Otto states that the most important leadership skill is to listen and pay attention.  To others, to stakeholders and to self – to your own intuition.  It’s a mindful type of listening that is embedded in empathy for others.  And to listen deeply to ourselves there is a practice of journaling with guided questions: e.g.     Emerging future: Where do you feel ‘the future’ is in your work right now? (future themes, addressing future challenges, sensing enthusiasm for the future in projects.)

When I met with Otto I noticed that the way he listened was full of deep attention  – it was a significant feature of his engagement with you. He states: “The power of attention is the real superpower of our age. Attention, aligned with intention, can make mountains move.”

An eye on the horizon

Throughout u.lab I discovered tools for keeping an eye on the horizon – noticing the trends that were emerging in society, community, organisations and teams.  This is a fundamental skill for any team player and leader too.

This way to pay attention and attune through open non-judgmental listening, journaling, team coaching and other tools gives rise to an inner wisdom about the next steps you need to take. 

We used the tools for keeping ‘an eye on the horizon’  on  a  TheoryU  group I was co leading on food poverty in London.  As a result  we were collectively  inspired  to co-create London’s first Community Fridge (now closed due to Covid)  This was an energising  journey that sparked an interest in other communities setting up their own community fridges and led to global, national and city wide press coverage

Find out more

TheoryU is a powerful structure for innovation for leaders, teams, organisations, and communities.  To learn more drop Andry a line about facilitated TheoryU  learning events and projects for UK organisations.

Useful Links

https://ottoscharmer.com

https://www.edx.org/course/ulab-leading-from-the-emerging-future

thelearningmoment.org

A systemic view of team resilience

I’m interviewing leaders and staff,  discovering what has made their teams resilient during this uncertain time that we’ve been through globally.

I’ll be presenting some of the information in a workshop at the SDF Festival of Learning later next week.

In the meantime, here’s some insights on why we need a systemic view for Team Resilience to work.

Why do we need systemic resilience? Yes, we can push ourselves to be resilient in our teams.   But we need to open our lens and look at the wider setting to enable long-term sustainable team resilience. Otherwise, by being resilient over a long time, teams can eventually experience loss of motivation and disengagement. And burnout. And even cycles of burnout – as we push our team members to keep innovating and keep going.

It’s a systemic view (or lens) that helps keep us informed, innovative and sustainably resilient.

What can you see with a ‘systemic perspective’? With a wider systemic lens focusing on resilience, we can  see:

  • What it is at the wider global, national and sector level that individuals and teams need to be resilient to e.g., financial uncertainty.
  • What might  be on the horizon in terms of upcoming change that teams and individuals need to innovate for e.g., hybrid learning
  • What trends are happening to enable people /staff  to move from surviving resilience in isolation to community-built resilience e.g., addressing ‘me too’ themes and discrimination.  We can then innovate around services for these trends
  • How an organisation does or doesn’t (and might learn to) support the resilience of teams and individuals e.g., Mentoring schemes for BAME staff

Being resilient in organisations,  we need to have this adaptable lens. Looking at the wider systemic picture,  then narrowing down to  the resilience of a team and its leader. And then narrowing the lens even more,  to look in detail at the resilience of individual staff.

By responding to the observations of our systemic view we may eventually end up putting actions, innovations  and services in place  that lead to more sustainable individual and team resilience.

This adaptable systemic lens is a new resilience skill for our uncertain times.

To learn more about resilience at work, do contact us: andry@thelearningmoment.org

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Understanding collaborative change, listening and problem solving

Theory U is a complete process for innovative change. Andry has been learning about Theory U since 2015. Learning Journeys are just one of the Theory U tools.

What are Learning Journeys’ for?

Theory U ‘Learning Journeys’ encourage you to move out of your daily routine and allow you to observe more deeply and to experience a workplace, team or community challenge, or system through the lens of different.

What did our group do for their Learning Journey?

12 climate change and development specialists visited a local community. They interacted at a deep listening level, with some of the key stakeholders. Such as market stall holders, market managers, local shoppers, local economy activists, leaders of social enterprise support organisations, representatives of local businesses. These are all people working on real economic and community challenges.

Our aim was to deepen our understanding of resilience within the community – economic, personal and community resilience and to take away learning to inform global development work.

During the day, we observed, talked, listened, asked questions and reflected – all with guiding principles, informed by the techniques of Presencing Institute and the work on Thory U by Otto Scharmer. The group were led and supported by Andry and supported by Jane Clarke, international development specialist.

What was the learning from this one day?

Every person in the group had some insights from the day about how to bring about collaborative change:

Managing Change ‘Change evolves over time for the better, when more people and greater diversity of ideas are involved’. Using the Learning Journey technique to discover new ways to engage face to face with your staff, teams, policy-makers, investors or stakeholders can take you to a deeper level of understanding – beyond consultation – and stimulate new possibilities.

Listening and neutral observation” Sometimes we listen with an answer in mind… we don’t give space to listen and absorb”. An early response from the team was just how willing people were to engage with us if we give them the time and space. Participants on the Learning Journey day could see how a different way of engaging would give them an experience that was the polar opposite of this. By dropping assumptions and, cynicism, judgments about people, places and solutions you potentially could improve outcomes.

Reenergising others and ourselves at work: A clear message in participants’ comments were that this Learning Journey was an energising experience. If you are energised you are more inspired, connected, and engaged with your work and your career.. At its heart, the Learning journey process (as part of the tools and approaches from the Presencing Institute), also aims to support individuals to reconnect with their passion for work, career and life: ”The sign of a good course is how much I have been talking to other people about what I learnt …as it has changed the way I engage with people and probably what I do next. Result! Many many thanks.’

The Learning journey tool is part of a wider body of techniques and approaches (Theory U methodology and Presencing Institute tools and approaches) that can be used to help design and bring about collaborative change at many levels. This approach to can help to tackle tough and complex challenges in organisations, communities or even globally. You can use the tools and principles in many ways. For example when designing a team meeting, when starting a new piece of work with a new team, when working with a new or refreshing a familiar context, or when you are seeking new ideas.

• Thanks for kind support from Brixton Bid, Impact Brixton, Brixton Pound Café, Pop Brixton and Brixton Station Road Community Market.

Andry enjoys working with these innovative tools for change, systems change, collaboration, resilience, action learning and building and improving partnerships. If you would like to find out more about working with Andry and MIT’s U Theory tools and approaches, please contact: andry@thelearningmoment.org

References:

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‘I didn’t mean it like that!’ ‘Landmines’ and conflict in conversations at work

I’m learning about Deborah Tannen’s work. Her research focuses on conversations[1]. On why we understand and often misunderstand each other. Good conversation skills are in my experience,  crucial at work. Whether you work on customer service,  as an administrator, or as a manager using coaching skill.

Working on  your conversation skills also contributes to your resilience. As you experience less irritation and anger and more harmony,  making it easier to keep moving forward in tasks, conversations and projects.

Stop talking over me!!

Deborah has researched conversational tone, rhythms, and patterns.  Like ‘cooperative interrupting’ – where you interrupt to ‘build on the gist’ of what the person said. As opposed to interrupting to cut them off and speak over them. Is ‘cooperative interrupting’ still interrupting? According to Deborah it depends on your point of view, your culture, geography and gender and your conversation intentions and expectations.

I don’t agree with everything I’m learning from Tannen’s findings e.g., I worry a lot about the gender generalisations). I’m digesting and processing it – like a true reflector.  In the meantime, here are some fascinating tips from her work about improving conversations and understanding.

  1. There are ‘landmines’ in conversations between us. These are the places where we get triggered and misunderstand each other. These are often linked to our own expectations of the other person. Like how much space they should be between one person speaking and the next.
  • A good way to deepen your understanding, is to step back after a conversation. To see if you can (more objectively) analyse it a bit ‘like a scientist’. Explore what your expectations were or where you think you got tripped up etc. This reflection is a skill that you learn as a coach, facilitator, teacher. And it’s great for anyone working with others to do a reflection like this. Of course, perception is everything. So true ‘objective thinking’ is probably not truly possible here. But at least you are working on stopping back and having a bit of perspective.
  • Bring peace harmony and understanding to our conversations with those close to us. Drop the experience of being at war and being adversarial. I love the idea that of ‘looking for the good in people’. By assuming there is often a good intention (rather than a malicious one) we can move away from seeing each other as enemies. ‘We have the power to resist taking adversarial stances toward each other in our private interactions.’ I found this idea valuable in  conversations where I’ve been in conflict. It’s also a great approach to use in customer service.

If you’d like to find out more about our communication skills workshops at The Learning Moment drop by and read more here.


[1]https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/43297241.pdf?ab_segments=0%252Fbasic_phrase_search%252Fcontrol&refreqid=excelsior%3A629b7dadf54fad1d2bdd16bbc648356e

What is Systemic Coaching?

It’s supportive conversations and confidential relationships that help you see the links between you and other staff, stakeholders and systems you are connected with.

Seeing the interrelationships between all of us.

Seeing the impact of your behaviours on others, on teams and on the organisation.

It’s using that systemic perspective to help you come up with solutions to challenges. #systemiccoaching #coaching #systemic #systemsthinking

Motivation tips

group online meeting

Sometimes when at work,  we might experience stressful thinking such as:  ‘I have to go to this meeting’ or,  ‘I have to do this task’.  It’s a slightly tough way to think or to  motivate ourselves, as it creates  inner resentment and stress. Choice-based thinking, like ‘I want to..’ creates freedom and motivation.

  • Tip part 1:  Experiment shifting your thinking from, ‘I have to do this task’ to, I ‘choose to’ and even, “ I’m willing to …’.  
  • Try that out for size – don’t force it. Just allow it as a new way of  experimental thinking. See what happens to your feelings when you do that. How motivated do you now feel?

To explore more motivation at work tips, do contact us for 1-1 and team coaching andry@thelearningmoment.org . Find out more about our services at http://www.thelearningmoment.org

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The 6 secrets to team away day events

You either love team-building events or you hate them. I dislike team away-days that are full of  back-to-back speaker presentations. But I’d love to go to a paintball team away day.  My favourite team away days are the facilitated ones, where we chat, explore ideas, innovate, and plan our new way forward at work.

A facilitated team away-day can truly enable positive change.  In my experience, it depends on these 6 things that any good facilitator can get right.

  • Interactive content: Engagement is essential. Even if it’s a chat box with questions. A one-way presentation might inspire – but you are looking for more than that for real change. Include questions, activities, and feedback moments.
  • Negotiated programme:  Designing the content without negotiating it with your participants is a sure way to get a lack of buy-in. Have conversations with your participants in advance. Use the info from those conversations to shape your away day content.
  • Transparency: Be clear about the themes, challenges, or questions you want to address.  Don’t surprise people with a controversial previously hidden agenda on the day.  

  • Safety: There’s a lot to think of here. Begin with good guidelines for learning, Covid guidelines, regular breaks, on-line security, and non-judgemental listening. Make sure that you keep your event a safe space for your staff to learn.
  • Make it matter: Follow up on whatever is agreed, in a timely manner.  It is then apparent that your team days make a real difference

  • Finally, a bit of a personal preference…Argh- team building! Don’t call it a ‘team-building’ You know that people will resist that. Brand it right: Adapt your language.  You could try… design day, lunch and learn, away day or development day. Anything but Team Building!

Read our tips for embedding equality and diversity into your learning events  

Learn more with us at w:https://thelearningmoment.org

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Reduce bias in coaching

  • As coaches, we all need to be aware of our own biasses and the impact these  have. Unnoticed bias can lead to judgement and even discrimination.   It’s important  we work to reduce and eliminate our biases. That way we can provide a really professional,  safe and inclusive service. To all our clients.
  •  Mezirow’s model is good reflective way of bringing your own coaching bias to your awareness . Especially when combined with good supervision.

1. Reflectivity:  What do I feel and think about this person (coachee) and how does this affect my behavior? 

  • You could use these questions in a  reflective journalling, or a  peer supervision context.

2. Affective reflectivity: How do I feel about the way I think  and act in relation to them (coachee)

 3. Discriminant reflectivity: Are my perceptions of them correct?

4. Judgemental Reflectivity : what assumptions am I making about people and situations based on my own values?

5. Conceptual reflectivity: Questioning the constructs I  use when I think about other people;  for example ‘just because the person does x will y always for follow’?

6. Psychic reflectivity:  Am I jumping to conclusions? 

7. Theoretical reflectivity: becoming aware of the reasons and quick to make judgements about people based on cultural and psychological assumptions. What are my assumptions about this  person based on?

Write and reflect on your answers. Then bring the topic to your supervision practice.

References: 

Mezirow’s model:  7 Levels of Reflectivity (1978;1981)  cited in Boud, D.  Kough, R and Walker (1985)  Turning Experience into Learning, London, RouteledgeFalmer    

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Getting the most for your money from coaching

Getting the most for your money from coaching  

Coaching is an investment – time, energy and money.  You want to get something in return – positive change, a sense of direction and valuable learning.

Here’s how I help my coachees get the most from coaching.  Helping them get a greater return on their investment, with a little preparation.  I write to them in advance of the session  with this little bit of guidance…

Tip 1

  • It’s great if you can have a gap between your last meeting finishing and the coaching session starting –  even 10 minutes makes a difference to creativity  and concentration. 
  • Microsoft recently can completed a piece of research showing brain scans of people who took mini  gaps between meetings. It indicated that stress levels were considerably lessened and that concentration and creative thinking was increased!  So take some space. 

Tip 2 

  • Please do your best to find a quiet space where you can’t be overheard and won’t be interrupted.

Tip 3 

  • Some people like something to take notes on either a mobile phone pad or notebook.   
  • It’s great to have a space to record all your learning and small steps from coaching and you can also use it as a reflective journal

Tip 4 

  • Finally  please think  in advance about  the one theme that you would like to focus on in your first session- ‘what would be the best use of your time?’ 
  • No need to tell me in advance,  but it just helps if you’ve had a little bit of reflective space to clarify what your focus will be. 

To find out more about coaching, executive coaching and coaching for you, do visit us at www.thelearningmoment.org

#coaching  #executivecoaching  #TheReallyResilientGuide #OTLA #teachingandlearning #CPD #leadershipcoachingtips #coachingtips #onlinelearning #leadershipdevelopment #leadership #motivation #management #personaldevelopment #hr #humanresources #success #employeeengagement 

4 tips for best EDI practice when planning a staff training programme

1. Become aware:

Reflect  on your own equality, diversity and inclusion learning experiences : What do you bring to the table in terms of having experienced inequality, equality or privilege in learning? Where have you challenged discrimination when learning? When have learning opportunities ‘opened easily’/’not opened’ for you in ways that might be radically different for others? When have you easily accessed/struggled to access additional learning support? How might all this experience affect your approach to facilitating and to supporting your learners?

2. Weave it in:

EDI is not just a module  – it needs to be weaved in throughout your programme. Explore how you could do that for your course and participants…..with resources, discussions, activities, language and even your evaluation.  E.g. in our ‘Manager as Coach’ course we talk – right from the beginning of the coaching course – about how an ‘aware coach’ is conscious of coach/coachee similarities and differences. E.g. age, gender, race etc.. . We explore how to bring best EDI practice to all the stages of a coaching relationship. This is ideally done in discussion with facilitation peers.

3. Be inspired:

Engage your learners. Create new resources lists that promote and reflect the diversity of the UK and also it’s underrepresented groups.  As digital learning becomes the norm, there are so many more diverse resources online. Research relevant  inclusive positive  resources by  a range of authors including BAME authors,  GLBTQ+  and disabled speakers/authors.

4. De-colonisation:

Whatever the subject you are facilitating, learn about de-colonisation and learning. Explore how you could de-colonise your facilitation approach, your course and any older reading/resources list. This is often done best as a collaborative journey with colleagues.

At The Learning Moment we offer an organisational EDI support service. This includes focus groups, EDI awareness sessions and coaching. Do drop us a line for a chat: andry@thelearningmoment.org