How to Practice the Art of Stepping Back

Being absorbed in our work is a good thing in many ways, certainly better than feeling disengaged or distracted. Getting into the flow of our daily tasks is energizing. It helps us get our work done with a certain degree of efficiency and effectiveness. 


At the same time, we are so busy – going from meeting to meeting, email to email, emergency to emergency –  we can easily lose the larger perspective, fall into automatic reactions, and miss opportunities to be truly proactive. An IT manager who attended one of our Leadership Agility Change Labs told us that she was a key leader in a change initiative that was foundering, because they had not adequately engaged with the project’s stakeholders. At the time, they felt they didn’t have time for real stakeholder engagement. But plunging ahead had caused even more delay in the project. It had also reinforced a siloed culture and already strained relationships. 


Even when leaders...

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Perspective-taking as a Leadership Practice

"Perspective taking" is the ability to view a situation from another person’s (or group’s) perspective. In the Leadership Agility framework, this psychological term is translated into a more practical one, relevant to leadership: Stakeholder understanding. As we know, how a leader manages their stakeholder relationships is central to the success of any change initiative they undertake. And how well a leader understands various stakeholder perspectives on their initiative is key to gaining their alignment and support.

Stages of development in perspective-taking capacity 

The Leadership Agility framework identifies the three "levels" of leadership agility most relevant for today's organizations: Expert, Achiever, and Catalyst. This is a sequence of developmental stages. For example, research has shown that it’s not until around age 6 that we begin to realize that others experience objects from a different physical perspective than we do....

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3 Questions for Framing Change Initiatives

"Framing” an organizational change initiative means setting the context – clarifying fundamental questions about what the change is about and why it’s worth the time, effort and resources it will take to get from here to there. It means being clear about these issues in one’s own mind and communicating this frame to the initiative’s key stakeholders.

At the heart of a good frame for a change initiative are the answers to three key questions:

  • What is the need for change? What problem and/or opportunity is so compelling that it is worth making a commitment to changing things as they are now?
  • What are the desired outcomes? What desired future state is so valuable that it is worth investing what it takes to bring it about?
  • What is the scope of the change? What parts of the organization will be subject to change in this initiative, and what parts are out of scope?

None of these questions gives you a plan for the change. This will certainly be...

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How to use the Leadership Agility Compass

The Leadership Agility Compass is a graphic tool developed by ChangeWise, that emerged from the 5 years of intensive research and writing underlying the book, Leadership Agility.  When you know how to use it, it’s a tool that can make any leadership initiative you undertake more effective. If you're a leadership coach, you can use it to help your clients become more effective.

Our research on Leadership Agility found that the most successful leaders we studied invest time and attention in four key “territories.”  This applies, regardless of whether an initiative involves leading organizational change, improving team performance, or engaging in pivotal conversations.

The four interrelated territories that are integral to any of these initiatives are:

  • The larger systemic context surrounding a leadership initiative.
  • The initiative’s key stakeholders.
  • The specific problems and opportunities the...
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How to Shift from Blame to Learning

Uncategorized Nov 15, 2021

When things don’t go well in organizational life, it is ever so easy to react by blaming others.

For example, we may have a difficult conversation with a co-worker who seems, again, to dismiss our point of view. We wind up feeling “unheard,” frustrated, and possibly even insulted. We react (inwardly, if not outwardly) by blaming the other person. Or, we may blame managers at “lower” levels for acting in ways that are not in the best interest of the larger organization. Or, we may blame top management for lack of strategic clarity, for keeping us in the dark, or for the fact that we feel “ “jerked around” due to rapid shifts in direction. The possibilities are endless.

What is blame, and what does it do for us? What problems does it create? Are there any truly viable alternatives?  If so, how do we shift from blame to something more productive?

What is blame?

When we look at it, we see that blame usually arises in reaction to a...

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Vertical Development: A New Paradigm for Leadership Development

This post is for anyone who cares about leadership development: coaches (including Agile coaches), leadership development professionals, and leaders of organizations. It’s about leadership agility and “vertical development” and how these two ways of thinking intersect to create a new paradigm for leadership effectiveness in today’s world.

The need for new thinking about leadership

In thinking about the future of leadership development, there are two important trends we need to take into account. First, the business environment has become what many call VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). This environment is not going away and is likely to become "even more VUCA” with each passing year. Because of our increasingly turbulent environment, there’s a strong consensus that our organizations need to become more “agile,” more adept at navigating rapid change and interdependence. As a result, many companies are undergoing...

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