We posted this article earlier in May; perhaps you missed it then, but Shawn is visiting us in October. If you would like to consult with him personally contact fatima@jvrafrica.co.za, or read on for more information and event details.

Author: Shawn Bakker of Psychometrics Canada

Leadership and change are two of the most popular business topics in North America. There is good reason for this popularity; effective leadership and effective change management are important for a business to be successful. Leadership and change are also strongly related. A key part of leadership is recognizing and adapting to change. I recently worked with a successful Colonel in the Canadian Forces, and he was by no means the stereotypical military officer. He was not someone with a primary focus on efficiency, cool logical analysis, and rigid schedules; instead he was very flexible, warm and friendly, and genuinely excited about possibilities for people. Using a normative comparison, the Colonel has little in common with other military commanders. So how could someone like this be successful in the military? The Colonel’s success relies on two things – recognizing his skills and guiding his career toward projects that match his natural strengths, and being willing to stretch himself and act differently when required. As the Commanding Officer of the health services group that covers half of the armed forces, his atypical military profile fits very well with the demands of his job and the people who work for him. The WPI Leadership Competency Report is designed to help leaders examine how they interact with others, complete their work, deal with change, solve problems, and manage stress. The Leadership Competency Report outlines how a leader typically functions in these areas, links their traits to specific competencies, and helps identify leadership strengths and blind spots. When working with leaders on recognizing and adapting to change, it is useful to identify their current strengths (so they can lean on them), and their blind spots (so they can address them). When leaders are consciously aware of their skills and where they may need assistance can deal with change more effectively. The key questions for leaders are: What are you like? What strengths does that bring? Where might you need to adjust your style to be more effective? At the beginning, I make leaders’ aware that their personality traits influence how they manage change on a number of levels: • Their openness to change • The types of change they prefer • The information they need to be convinced of the need for change • How they sell the need for change to others • How they implement change Then I stress that their task of recognizing and adapting to change is doubly complicated because as leaders they need to take their own preferences into account and also the preferences of their employees/followers. This can be difficult and requires leaders to be willing to flex their style to meet the needs of those they are leading. To focus on a leader’s openness to change, and the types of change they enjoy I have them look at their results on the Flexibility and Innovation scales. Very flexible and very innovative people are open to any and all changes. Very structured and practical people (the opposite of flexible and innovative) generally resist most changes. The natural reaction for both these types of people can be detrimental in certain circumstances. When I want to help a leader evaluate how they buy in to change and then sell change to their followers I look at their results on the Analytical Thinking, Concern for Others, Outgoing, and Persistence scales. The conversation needs to revolve around the amount and detail of information they need in order to feel comfortable evaluating a change, and then look at how they interact with others and consider the needs of their employees when trying to convince others to get on board. A common insight for leaders is that the things they need to feel comfortable and convinced about, and the need to change is not the same for their employees. How a leader implements change is affected by their results on the Initiative, Energy, Ambition, Teamwork and Concern for Others scales. Some leaders are very driven, quick to take initiative, and happy to go forward alone, and this push for individual action can result in missing important information from others, and a stressed out workforce. Other leaders are very people focused, and this can result in difficult decisions being avoided. There are two methods for helping leaders review their WPI profile. The first is using normative comparisons which show how a person is similar or dissimilar to other people. We do know that corporate managers have some similarities, including higher levels of ambition, initiative, energy, the desire to be in control, and comfort with stress. However, leadership appears in a wide range of different styles and effective leadership is not always the same. That is why using an ipsative comparison can be valuable. Analyzing a leader’s profile by identifying their personal highs and lows can help them focus on their own skills and developmental needs in relation to the requirements of their work. Simply being like other leaders and managers in a normative way is not useful. Instead, how a leader uses and adjusts their natural style to meet the needs of their work and workers is the more beneficial evaluation.

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