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It’s Time for Brain-Aware Leadership

Training 2017, the conference sponsored by Training Magazine, concluded this week in sunny San Diego. I’ve written before about the value of attending conferences as a learning professional. Of course, the formal learning programs offered at these events give you an opportunity to learn best practices from a wide variety of experts. But the most powerful learning probably takes place informally, in the casual conversations between sessions that lead to more substantive sharing after you get home. One of the things I like about this conference is the ability to sign up for “Dine Around” tables – networking dinner organized around a topic, with a facilitator who is usually also a speaker. I was honored to host a table on the science of learning and had a wonderful evening. What a nice combination of dinner with stimulating conversation about my favorite subject.

I also recruited several guests you’ll be hearing soon on our podcast, including neuroscientists Dr. Art Kohn, leadership consultant Dr. Denise Hummel, brain-based video expert Steve Haskin, leadership development expert Katie Stroud and other exciting colleagues.

The Expo floor is another great place to learn. This time around I found two learning reinforcement apps I’m going to test and a new translation vendor who seems worth a try, as well as several opportunities to partner with some of the largest content and training providers in the world.

But perhaps the biggest “aha” for me occurred during the opening minutes of my session, Ready or Not? Developing Real-World Experience Using Brain Science. I’ve been working on this subject for almost two years, starting with my collaboration on an ebook with Dr. Nanette Miner. This presentation was based on our research into the coming leadership pipeline gap and ways to solve it through learning science. You can download the PowerPoint slides from this presentation here (17 MB).

So back to the “aha” moment. I always make sure that there are several opportunities for folks to interact and share their ideas during my sessions, so I wasn’t surprised to see the lively conversations. What did surprise me was their response to my first polling question.

I was surprised that option C, which was the topic of my presentation, was actually the highest result in the poll. When I asked this question last year, participants had fun choosing the zombie apocalypse and split their more serious concerns between climate change and global stability. This year, everyone was very aware of their own pipeline issues. The tumultuous events in the world in 2016 cast a bright light on the critical need for experienced, highly competent leadership. Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers in the workforce and they are making their presence known. My packed room at 8:30 in the morning the day after a big party was further proof that the leadership gap is now on most folks’ radar and needs to be solved soon.

You probably have received the ebook I wrote with Dr. Nanette Miner on this subject, since I offer it free of charge for every newsletter subscriber, so you may want to read it again and think about how the LEADS (Learn, Empathize, Analyze, Discover and Survive) model of brain-aware leadership development can help you accelerate your own programs. In a nutshell, the model takes advantage of brain processes to develop leaders through:

  • Teaching them how to learn more deeply
  • Building empathetic skills through practice and role play
  • Using whole brain processing for analytical thinking
  • Nurturing a sense of discovery and wonder to foster creativity
  • Leveraging our built-in survival mechanism to call leaders to action

As you think through your own leadership requirements for the next decade, keep in mind that in a knowledge economy leadership skills are needed throughout your organization, not just in those roles that end with the words leader, manager or supervisor.

This is also a good time for you to consider your own leadership skills and think about investing in your development. Are you ready to step into your next role? Your immediate supervisor may be too swamped to sit down with you and ask this question, but it needs to be addressed. In an increasingly complex and potentially dangerous world, we all have a responsibility to develop the next line of leaders – including ourselves. What formal and informal training have you planned for 2017?

Margie Meacham

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