Tag Archives: Gallup

Factors underlying exceptional expertise and creativity

I am a Strengths Coach and I firmly believe that exceptional creativity and expertise is demonstrated only when you are working in your strengths zone.

What do we mean by strengths? Gallup defines  Strength as “the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity”.  This is distinguished from Talent, Knowledge or Skills required to perform well that activity or in that domain, and even from Investment or Commitment to that particular activity or domain.

To make it simple, lets take a (self-reflective) example ; assume the activity is niche blogging in the domain of leadership development. What would exceptional creativity and expertise look like: would a blogger be able to cement his / her reputation by a just one blog post that went viral; or to be acknowledged as an expert blogger he needs to consistently churn out viral posts on a day -to -day basis? Also the blogging ‘strength’ or muscle is developed over the years due to following factors:

  1. Talent: The blogger simply has a way with words or is naturally gifted in simplifying and communicating lucidly complex concepts . Perhaps he has the ‘communication’ theme as one of his signature themes as per Gallup CSF assessment.  Also, maybe growing others and developing them comes naturally to him, aka he has ‘developer’ as one of his Gallup CSF themes, which provides him an undue advantage when developing leaders .
  2. Skills: Perhaps he has practiced writing on a daily basis and words come easily to him when he sees a blank page/ screen; he need not suffer from writers’ block because he has made writing daily a part of his routine and has practiced the craft of writing beautifully and eloquently well.  Maybe he has attended multiple creative writing workshops that have enabled him to acquire the writing skill. Equally important he may have spent time facilitating leadership development (his niche topic) and has some practical skills and experience related to that domain.
  3. Knowledge: The blogger perhaps has a lot of knowledge about how to blog, how frequently to blog, when to blog to drive traffic etc (this is knowledge related to blogging) ; he has perhaps a lot of knowledge related to his domain of leadership development too that gives him material for his posts on a constant basis.
  4. Investment/ Commitment / Diligence : Perhaps the blogger is doggedly determined to make best use of his writing/ leadership development talent by investing systematically in learning and acquiring skills related to the same .

Only if all the four factors come together in the same blogger, will he have a chance of him consistently producing almost-always-viral posts.

The above can apply to performance in any domain, be it dance or music or academics or sports.

Elucidating the process further, what we note is that instead of falling in the trap of whether expertise and creativity is elicited from Nature (Talent) or Nurture ( acquired Skill/ Knowledge) or Effort (Investment/ Diligence);  we need to take a holistic approach where innate factors (about which we can’t do much)  like Talent may also be important and  agentic factors (which are more or less in our control)  like Commitment and Diligence may also be important.  Similarity, expertise will typically constitute of some ratio of  learned knowledge and some practiced and acquired skills.

I consider Talent as an Aptitude to Learn and Practice in a domain; Skill as the sum total of (experiential) Practice in the domain; Knowledge as the sum total of (at times theoretical/ cerebral) Learning in a domain; and Diligence/ Commitment as an attitude to Learn and Practice in a domain no matter what the odds.

So real Strength consist of having the right aptitude and the right attitude towards learning and practicing in a domain to provide consistent near-perfect performance.

We can summarize it with two equation:

Expertise/ Creativity = Developing Strengths and being in the Strength zone

Strength= Talent x Skills x Knowledge x Diligence.

The above also correlates with my ABCD model whereby Talent is innate like Affect; Skills is more Behavioral in nature; Knowledge is Cognitive while Diligence relates to Motivation/ Drive.

So if you want to develop your strengths muscle don’t stop at just identifying your talent; after identifying your talent, acquire skills and knowledge related to the domain and become passionate/ committed about mastering that domain.

As as Strengths Coach, helping the client discover his talents is just the first step: then comes the long path to encouraging the client to become passionate, skilled and knowledgeable about his chosen domain of excellence.

Leadership Distilled -part III

In our earlier posts we have looked at Barbara’s CQ model, Gallup’s leadership domains and Michigan Model of Leadership to arrive at four main functions/ traits of a good leader.  These are elaborated below:

  1. Hand / Executing themes/ Task focus
  2. Heart/ Relationship building themes/People focus
  3. Head/ Strategic thinking themes/ Strategic focus
  4. Voice/ Influencing themes/ Cultural focus

It always heartens me when I see multiple streams of research converging and coming to the same conclusions.

MMoL

Its instructive to note that as per Michigan Model of Leadership (MMoL), the four key behaviors identified are Empathy (people quadrant) , Drive (results or task quadrant), Courage (culture of innovation quadrant) and Integrity (strategic structures quadrant) . These are theorized to lead to good leadership behavior.

Now, if proof was needed, a study by KRW International, a leadership consultancy, that looked at four character traits of leaders, found overwhelming support for the effectiveness of those traits in identifying good leaders.

KRW, looked at four universal character traits that they identified from anthropological data.  These were Integrity (mapping to integrity in MMoL or strategic focus), Responsibility (drive in MMoL or task focus), Forgiveness(Courage in MMoL {imho you require courage to forgive especially if you want to  encourage innovation in this quadrant} or culture focus), and Compassion (empathy in MMoL or people focus).

What they found was striking- those top 10 executives who were high in these traits or were virtuoso’s , their firms were giving 5 time the return on assets than the firms of CEO’s who were in bottom 10 on these traits and were self-focused.

The details about these results are covered in HBR and Fast Company.

To quote:

According to KRW International, a leadership consultancy, CEOs whose characters were highly rated by employees had an average return on assets of 9.35% over a two-year period, almost five times as much as CEOs with low scores whose return on assets averaged just 1.93%.

To me this is converging evidence of the power of the hands, heart, head and voice metaphor of effective leadership and this study is proof enough of the sound business logic behind hiring such leaders or promoting such behaviors.

 

Leadership Distilled – part 2

In an earlier post I had elaborated on the CQ model and Gallup’s four buckets of leadership strengths and used that to derive a framework for leadership skills.

To recap,  the four buckets are

  1. Hand / Executing themes
  2. Heart/ Relationship building themes
  3. Head/ Strategic thinking themes
  4. Voice/ Influencing themes

Its also instructive to note that typically having a task focus necessitates trade-offs with having a people focus and these are at loggerheads with each other. If you really want to accomplish a task, you’ll probably not hesitate in brushing against a few team members; similarly if you are too sensitive to people issues, you might not be that able to drive them to accomplish results.

In a similar vein, its easy to see how having a Strategic thinking focus may be at loggerheads with having a Influencing focus. Influence, at most times, is due to creating the right culture in the organization and everyone knows the adversarial relationship of culture to strategy when thinking about leadership (think ‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast!’).

Leadership is all about making the right trade offs and finding one’s own unique style and strength of operation.

I recently came across Michigan Model of Leadership (MMoL) and it as heartening to note the convergence between it and my earlier formulation derived from Gallup/ CQ. To quote,

Our research shows that the most effective leaders (1) are empathetic and committed to seeing the world through others’ eyes; (2) are driven and routinely stretch to achieve challenging goals; (3) have integrity and are committed to doing the right thing even if it is not the popular thing; and finally (4) are courageous and consider risk and failure to be necessary ingredients for innovation. These values form a strong foundation for action and serve as guideposts for leaders as they work to make a positive difference in the world.

MMoL

Its easy to note there that Empathy maps to Heart, Drive maps to Hands, Integrity to Head and Courage to Voice. Further,

Robust Results (blue) represents the actions that leaders engage in to foster competition, perform under pressure, and deliver short-term results. This archetype is often in direct tension with Collaborative Communities (yellow), which represents the actions involved in building high-quality relationships, empowering people, and cultivating trust and cohesion within teams. In many organisations, competition and an emphasis on short-term performance undermine collaboration and the importance of community. Yet, in other organisations, too much of an emphasis on harmony within the community produces a happy yet under-performing culture where people are unwilling to challenge each other in service of achieving higher performance.

Strategic Structures (red) represents the actions that leaders engage in to establish accountability, ensure reliable processes, and optimize efficiency. This archetype is often in direct contrast with Creative Change (green), which represents the actions required to enable change, inspire innovation and co-create new opportunities. In many organisations, an over-emphasis on structure and process can root out innovation, but at the same time, too much emphasis on innovation and change can produce inefficiencies or even organisational chaos that keeps the organisation from implementing new ideas.

Thus, Combining all the evidence above, I propose the following schemata:

  1. Hands/ Task Focus- a focus on results and action; Behavioral in nature as per ABCD model of Psychology.
  2. Heart / People Focus – a focus on collaboration and relationships-  Affect or emotion driven as per ABCD
  3. Head/ Strategic Focus – a focus on structure and thinking – Cognitive as per ABCD
  4. Voice/ Cultural Focus- a focus on creativity/ engagement and influence- Dynamics/ motivational in focus as per ABCD.

Its also easy for me to see how a leader progresses in his journey towards greater impact by focusing on different focuses at each subsequent level of leadership. impact.

For example, a someone who is a good supervisor/ boss is predominantly at a Hands focus- focused on getting things done; a good manager on the other hand is really focused on his people- identifying their strengths and making them flourish in their roles; an executive however is more focused on getting the vision and strategy for the organization right; while a good leader IMHO is focused most intently on creating the right culture- everything else them follows.

Do let me know if this resonates with you and do contemplate whether you are at the level of a boss, manager, executive or a real leader!

Leadership Distilled

Leadership (Nigeria)

Leadership (Nigeria) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traditionally two main functions or orientations of leaders have been task-orientation and people-orientation and even different large scale neural networks in the brain have been hypothesized to underlie these different focuses.

However if one takes a more closer look at the roles and responsibilities of a leader, they tend to fall into four distinct buckets.

The first bucket is related to what Gallup calls as strengths and talents in the  Strategic Thinking domain.  An apt metaphor for the same, as per Barbara’s Change Intelligence (CQ) model is Head. These abilities are intellectual and startegic in nature, concerned with understanding and shaping  the future and with defining a  vision that can inspire self and others. In transformational leadership context this would be the ability to create and define a vision. This too is task like in nature but more involves complex systemic thinking too rather than immediate task focus.

The second bucket of abilities lies in what Gallup calls the Influencing themes or domain. An apt metaphor, that I have come up for the same is Voice/Mouth. These abilities are the ability to inspire and motivate people, to influence large groups even though one may not have a direct control over them.  In transformational leadership context this would be an ability to motivate and inspire people to achieve that vision. This is similar to being centered on people, but is a different flavor as the emphasis is on not just connecting with people one-on-one, but to move and influence people and large collectives.

The third bucket of abilities are what Gallup calls Executing themes and talents. An apt metaphor, derived from CQ framework is that of Hand. These abilities include the ability to roll up the sleeves and lead from the front. In transformational leadership context, this includes delivering on the vision and managing the myriad problems that may come en route. This is the traditional task or production focus.

The fourth bucket of abilities are what Gallup calls Relationship building themes. An apt metaphor, derived again from CQ model is that of Heart. These abilities enable deep connection and concern with the team members and peers. In transformational leadership context, this includes the ability to coach and build a team to achieve the compelling vision. These are indeed the typical people abilities.

Its important to find out what your signature strengths are and to leverage them fully to achieve in all four domains.  Its also important to remember that strengths in any one domain can be used to achieve outcomes in any other domain, if used properly and intentionally (and which is where caches come handy).

Also remember, that much of leadership is situational:  there is a time to tell (head/vision) , a time to sell (voice/inspire) , a time to participate (hand/ execute) , and a time to delegate (heart/ trusting the team). Know your strengths and also the assess the situational needs to tailor your responses accordingly.

Everyone has a Head, a Voice, a Hand and a Heart- some may be more driven by Heart than by Head but a good leader knows what his unique strengths are and leverages them for the benefit and optimal functioning of the group.