Three powerful tools to add to the ‘leadership tool belt’

GLF 2014 participant Michelle Peterson reflects on Integration Session 2 of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation program. Throughout the year various GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

Integration session 2 set an ambitious agenda to cover off three topics to help us on our journey to be wiser leaders:

  • Adaptive Leadership
  • Action Learning
  • Belbin Personal Profiles

Adaptive Leadership

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership book imageMost of us were introduced to this concept through our reading of ‘The Practice of Adaptive Leadership’ by Heifetz, Linsky and Grashow. To explore the concept and practice adaptive leadership skills further, we were asked “What’s the one big question you have in regards to GLF at the moment?”

Several questions were raised, and the group settled on working through one of them. The details of the question itself are irrelevant; the process we were taken through to experience adaptive leadership in action was the key learning. Connecting to our purpose, clarifying the values of the group, dealing with ambiguity, being accepting of some chaos and frustration as the session wore on with different factions emerging – this was the essence. Acknowledging personal journeys of being on the balcony or on the dance floor, stepping up in a leadership role to help move the group to a resolution, or being a passive and/or active group member were also valuable insights in the moments of reflection that came afterwards. Personally, I had several reflective questions particularly since it was my question that the group ran with for a couple of hours. I initially wondered if I asked the question from the dance floor or the balcony. My question was based on what I felt was a perceived group need to talk about an issue we had not had the opportunity to unpack in a group setting, so in answer to my own question I will say I asked it from the balcony.

Action Learning

The next session we went through was on Action Learning. This concept has been around in various formats since the 1940’s, developed originally by Reg Revans. What I found magnetic about this problem solving framework is that it enables companies, teams, and individuals to solve urgent and complex problems and also up skill those involved at the same time. Continuous use of this framework enables a culture shift from a problem solving organisation to a learning organisation. The learning and up skilling is just as valued as the outcome to the issue.

Integration Session 2 GLF14 by Tracey Wallace

Integration Session 2, photo by GLF2014 participant Tracey Wallace

My experience is that corporate cultures reward individuals for quick and effective problem solving techniques, and pay less attention to the learning experience that can happen in parallel. This creates and sustains the development of technical leaders, brilliant at providing technical solutions to technical problems. What this doesn’t foster is the ability to be adaptive leaders, in a world with ever increasing complex and wicked problems that can’t be solved by applying technical leadership solutions.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.
Albert Einstein

My “aha” moment came when I visualised Action Learning being utilised in my company, and what that would look and feel like. I work in an electricity distribution company, which is faced with many complex and wicked problems in a time of informed and connected customers, climate change, technological advances, energy alternatives and environmental enlightenment. I believe the Action Learning methodology is needed in our repertoire.

Belbin Team Profiles

Dr Meredith Belbin first introduced the concept of team profiles in 1981 when he published “Management Teams: why they succeed or fail”. Profiling individuals, and understanding their personalities and preferences lead to the definition of nine separate team profiles.

Belbin picture from Belbin website

Belbin Team Roles, credits: Belbin,

The GLF group had completed the online questionnaire prior to this session. We were taken through an understanding of the roles and were provided with our personal results. The focus quickly switched to seeing the ‘team mix’ for our newly formed Community Action Project teams. Interestingly, there was a high percentage of Resource Investigators, Coordinators and Plants in the group dynamics and limited Completer Finishers. Recognition of the profiles will help teams focus on less preferred roles and ensure they consciously balance out responsibilities.

Overall, I found the three topics complemented our GLF learning to date. Action Learning is another powerful tool to add to the ‘leadership tool belt’ I visualise myself wearing as part of my daily outfit. I am thankful that we were offered the opportunity to practice Action Learning at a later date with a skilled facilitator in our Community Action Project teams as whilst I grasp the concept I know I’ll benefit from putting theory into practice. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to exercise these new tools to strengthen our understanding and effectiveness as leaders in our workplace and communities.

Michelle Peterson croppedMichelle Peterson is the Business Performance Manager at SA Power Networks. She is passionate about helping others, with her main focus being on her work community. She has been involved in the Graduate Mentoring Program at SA Power Networks for the past five years and is a foundational member of the Gender Diversity Strategy Group. Personal career highlights have included winning the annual ‘Make a Difference’ awards twice and being nominated by her Executive for the GLF 2014 intake. In her down time, Michelle enjoys relaxing with her family and friends, the Clipsal V8 race, and watching movies.


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