Insights

Self Leadership: step off the ledge and embrace fear

Joanna Reed, Executive Director of Talent Management at Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB) is an HR and Learning and Development Director with 30 years’ talent management experience in global professional services. Joanna’s lightbulb moment reveals two valuable insights for Directors; try before you buy, and how to get teams to bond deeply.

1/First the lightbulb moment. “Overcoming my greatest fear.”

How do you learn to Love the Don’t Know? Tackle a deep seated fear. Step off the ledge in the knowledge you can handle it.

Joanna Reed, Executive Director of Talent Management at Bahrain’s EDB

 

Joanna joined a cohort of leaders on a Leadership Trust experiential leadership programme and unexpectedly conquered her greatest fear.

“Imagine you’ve got a deep fear of claustrophobia, you hate small dark spaces, for years you’ve taken the stairs when the lift would have been easier. This was my fear.”

“Well, as part of the experiential leadership programme, out of the blue I was given the choice to climb or cave. It would have been easy to opt for the climb, something I’ve done before and enjoy. But that seemed like the safe option. So, I bit the bullet. I was determined to stretch myself and face my fear once again. Petrified, I had a sleepless night not knowing how I was going to react to this extreme situation.”

“I elected to Love my Don’t Know and beat my greatest fear. I’m now pulling on a scuba mask — possibly the smallest space imaginable, and diving. It was an unexpected opportunity to face my fear. For years, I’ve been helping others overcome theirs and this was a chance to grasp the nettle and I now feel a release of energy.”

2/Try before you buy. “To commission an experiential leadership programme I prefer to live it first.”

As the head of talent for the EDB that attracts foreign direct investment and is responsible for motivating and retaining talent, Joanna needed to personally experience the Leadership Trust to know what it could do for her people.

“I wear two hats. As a commissioner of talent programmes sourcing and selecting development partners, I know when I see snake-oil and the real thing. And as a user, whose job it is to anticipate what’s next and navigate uncertainty with confidence.

“Two months into my role at the EDB, I was keen to see what the Leadership Trust’s experiential learning was all about. I’d heard good things but as we began work on designing a career development framework for the EDB, I had an opportunity to re-evaluate our future learning needs. This was the ideal moment to live it and decide how to get the best from the Leadership Trusts’ programmes.”

 

“I went in with an open mind and it was extraordinary. Way beyond the impact on my own personal fear, I’ve now experienced first-hand how our teams can now face up to challenges, manage conflict and work more effectively together. This programme is different because the outcomes are uncertain and that leads to the most powerful learnings.”

3/Diversity. “Mixing up teams breaks down barriers”

Leaders frequently select a layer or level of managers that they feel need development from across the whole business so they all move up together. However, the big challenges are often within teams and the friction that arises between the behaviour of those groups dubbed digital natives and digital immigrants.

The contrasting outlooks of ambitious and impatient Millennials and Gen Y with their Gen X and Baby Boomer managers promoted on tenure, results in a clash of cultures and values and can be the source of road-blocks. So head this off by mixing them up.

“I’ve run international teams in Europe, the Middle East and Africa where there can be deep cultural differences within multi-national teams. This goes beyond borders where ethnic, religious and cultural differences surface but also into the inescapable difference in generations. Their ways of doing things can be very different — capability, collaboration and communications styles are just three that come to mind.”

“Carefully blending different ages, levels and cultural groups within functional teams’ in experiential learning groups means they connect on a new and personal level. They learn to compensate for each other’s differences, develop greater cultural intelligence and appreciate that it takes diverse skills and experiences to build a better solution.”

“It’s an old adage but the most powerful learning comes from doing. Neuroscience proves that people learn most and retain that learning as changed behaviour when the emotional circuits within our brain are activated.”

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