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Masterclasses 2016-17

The Greater Essex Leadership Collaborative experienced a hands-on programme, supported by group work, masterclasses and individual coaching to support them in their journey to build the skills and behaviours they need to operate across organisational boundaries and to contribute to a culture shift towards collaborative working across systems in Greater Essex.

Four masterclasses were held over the 12 month programme exploring topics such as wilful blindness, system thinking, diversity, horizon scanning, adaptive approaches to collaboration, and as a means of approaching a critical moment in the participants' leadership challenge.  

Below we share some highlights from the four Greater Essex Leadership Collaborative masterclasses.

You can hear the participants' reflections on the masterclasses by watching the video on the right.

Margaret Heffernan 

Margaret Heffernan shared her experience that organisations are often run according to "the super chicken model," where the value is placed on star employees who outperform others. However according to Margaret this isn't what drives the most high-achieving teams.

Margaret shared her observations via an analogy about a farmer who wanted to breed chickens that were the best of the best. He achieved this by selectively breeding the chickens who laid the most eggs for six generations. In addition, he also kept another group of chickens whom just bred normally and had no selection whatsoever. At the end of the six generations he saw that the uncontrolled group were healthy and laying eggs. However, when it came to the super chickens they had almost killed each other off.

From Margaret's studies she found that the most successful teams weren't the ones whom had people with the highest IQ, nor were they the teams that had the highest average IQ. However, the teams that were successful had three main contributing factors, namely:

  • Having team members with a high level of empathy.
  • People who didn't dominate the team or team members who just sat back and didn't contribute
  • Teams with more women (Probably due to having higher levels of empathy)

As a result of the higher levels of empathy, the team members got to know each other better and began to rely on each other for help in areas where they needed assistance. Over time bonds started to grow between the people and loyalty started to form as well. As a result, this created teams that were robust and able to weather the storm.

What she also found was that teams that worked together longer tended to perform better as they had a large amount of time to build bonds and relationships. Overall, the ability to help each other trumped the intelligence of individual team members.

The goal for any leader is to create a sustainable, high performant team. More than likely, having a team of super chickens will not get you there. Instead, it would be better to get a mix of people who are experts in certain areas. By doing this, you can create a varied team who can cover for the various weaknesses of the individuals in the team.

At the end of the day, we could all achieve so much more if we stopped trying to be super chickens and focused on building relationships with other people and asking for help when you need assistance. These are the teams that will be able to survive in the long run.

Listen to Margaret’s TED talk on the same subject here.

Keith Grint

Keith Grint is a Professor of Public Leadership at Warwick University. Keith’s session with the Leadership Collaborative covered: Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions: the Role of Leadership.

We know a lot about organisational change but despite - or perhaps because - the numbers of change models around most change initiatives fail. Keith Grint suggests that this failure might be to do with our framing of the problem and consequent approach to resolving it. He suggests that differentiating between Tame, Wicked and Critical problems, and associating these with Management, Leadership and Command, might be a way forward.

Keith considers the role of default cultures and how these persuade us to engage ‘elegant’ - that is internally coherent - responses. These may be fine for Tame or Critical problems but Wicked problems need us to go beyond internally coherent approaches and adopt so called ‘Clumsy Solutions’ that use the skills of bricoleurs to pragmatically engage whatever comes to hand to address these most complex problems.

Watch Keith Grint here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFpO9l4RYTE


Dr Eden Charles

Dr Eden Charles explored the issues of diversity, inclusion and power and how they applied to system and collaborative leadership. He provided new ways of thinking about these issues and how this thinking applies to working collaboratively, working with our communities and essentially to the impact and benefits of this work.

Eden has run experiential learning programmes for more than 20 years. He is the Executive Director of People Opportunities – a ground-breaking consultancy that is successfully supporting individuals to create cultural change in their organisations – and an outstanding educational practitioner.

Eden is a qualified teacher with three degrees. He is recognised as a national thought leader and has an outstanding track record in helping black and minority ethnic managers succeed in their careers, and in assisting organisations successfully strategise and implement changes that actually lead to a change.

Matthew Taylor

Think like a system, act like an entrepreneur” said Matthew Taylor Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to the Leadership Collaborative.

Matthew Taylor explored what it means to adopt a system approach and how this is relevant in today’s public sector and political environment. The Collaborative heard about his own experience as an effective system leader and how we might need to reshape the conversations we have to achieve system leadership in Essex.

Matthew discussed how leaders can ensure ‘good work’ for their teams and organisations: work that is fair, decent and with scope for fulfilment and development. Discussing why 'good work' matters, Taylor suggested that businesses could improve productivity by engaging their employees and giving them greater independence.

“The notion of citizens as people who should be respected, who should be listened to, and who should be encouraged to participate, seems still to stop at the door of the factory, the door of the shop, the door of the office", he said. “If we managed people better - if their work was better and they had more scope to be creative and autonomous… if they could bring their ‘whole selves’ to work, we might have more productive workers, more productive organisations, and a more productive economy”, he added.

He urged the Collaborative to think systematically about a problem and its context, and adopt an innovative approach to encourage change. Taylor explained that this mantra influenced the 'nudge rather than shove' approach of his Review: incentivising change and empowering employees, rather than banning things outright.

Hear from some of the participants