Like other training companies, Chris immediately began developing online courses. After a while his ideas really took hold and companies started buying his product. One of these companies, a global water organization, declared his online training as “top in class” for their people.
So.....no problem you would think.....Well done Chris!
An important aspect of the regular training is being exposed to different levels of stress. When people really feel how stress is showing up in their body, they can recognize it and do something with it. Although he invented a great online experience, this kind of exposure is not possible during an online course.
Chris started to experience a struggle in his value system. Am I really selling safety? Am I creating the impact I want?
After some soul-searching Chris believed he was still making an impact with his product regarding the safety awareness of people.
However.. with this particular course not in the extent he desired or wanted.
Chris decided to stop this sort of online courses, although successful and profitable. Spoke to his customers and explained his “why” of discontinuing this product.
He made a decision that might not be obvious for every leader......
In our series on Adult Development Theory, we focus on different ways (stages) of meaning making. Different ways how people make sense of the world and their place in the world. Robert Kegan (founder of ADT) is talking about the stages Early Childhood, Self-Sovereign, Socialized, Self-Authoring and Self-Transforming form of mind. On average people find themselves in one of the three middle phases. All are good, but one phase may be more suitable for certain roles within an organization than another.
So, what are the characteristics of leaders with a Self-Authored form of mind? Is there a benefit of having more Self-Authored people in your organization?
A characteristic of Self-Authored behavior is that people can keep true to their moral internal compass, even when there are competing perspectives around. They know who they are and most of the time they are aware what is driving their behavior. Another characteristic is the ability to manage stakeholders with different views. Making conscious decisions that take into account opposing perspectives and driven by own sense of mission and values. Unlike within other levels Self-Authoring leaders are able to transfer this to the organization.
Self-Sovereign people are capable of holding their own perspective but having difficulty with holding other perspectives as well. Nothing wrong but limited choices. Depending on the structure of your organization this can go well but also has the potential of being very disruptive.
Looking at this example from a Socialized form of mind, this person would have been able to recognize and value the different perspectives but unaware of own mission and values. In this case the course would probably have continued because of other internal or external priorities.
Self-Authoring people recognize most of the time what is driving their behavior. They are experiencing this uncomfortable feeling the moment values are stepped upon. More than within the socialized form of mind they are able to hold different perspectives and act upon it.
Within the Socialized form of mind, authority is found through other people (senior leaders, experts). Growing towards the Self-Authoring domain, authority is found more and more in the self. When other perspectives disagree, it can feel unpleasant but does not lead to paralysis. Leaders in the Self Authoring stage just take a more informed decision which is driven (on a conscious level) by their values.
The more you recognize different perspectives, and the more mindful you are about your own feelings and emotions, the more choice in behavior you create. This can make a big difference in which course to follow and also increases your possibilities of the way you “meet” the people around you.
Most situations in an organization are not straight forward. Especially Culture Change and Leadership Development are complex processes. In this complex world, we need to be able to hold different perspectives in our hands, look at them turn them around and then make an informed decision of which course to take.
In our leadership journeys we’re aiming for development towards a Self-Authored stage where sense of self intrinsically is created. Depending on where in the Self-Authored trajectory leaders are, they could be tightly defending boundaries or loosening them to include other perspectives, principles or values in their thinking.