Learming Hub
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            [post_content] => The IMI People Strategy Network kicked off a series of in-person events, due to take place throughout 2023. The series represents the return to in-person events, after a pivot to virtual during the pandemic.

This year’s first speaker was Ade McCormack, a former technologist, with a background in astrophysics and software engineering, who today advises leaders on transformational matters.

Ade started off by talking about disruption. It’s a buzzword that has certainly gained a lot of traction in recent years, but what does the word “disruption” actually mean? Firstly, it’s all about challenging the status quo.

Covid definitely shook things up, sometimes in a positive way. But while the majority of leaders most likely think they’ve responded well, that’s not the case at all. As soon as we got back to a relatively steady state, we could see leaders and organisations slip back into their old habits. This has even been evident in organisations that we look to as cutting edge, for example those which have begun to force staff back into the office. But the truth is that there is no “new normal”. From here on out, our lives will be characterised by large amounts of disruption.

In fact, humans are not particularly wired for this modern world. We’re wired to live in tribes, and in situations that cause short bursts of anxiety (like a life or death situation), not chronic anxiety like we tend to experience in the working world.

Ade moved on to talking a bit about how organisations haven’t really progressed from the factory model that worked well during the industrial revolution. The factory model is about rigid processes – something goes in at one end and comes out at another, after being processed in some way. Efficiency is very important here, but efficiency stifles innovation!

Humans are used as tech placeholders in the factory model – people are cogs in the machine, needed to perform a specific task. When it comes to technology, today is the fastest day we’ve ever experienced, and the slowest day we will ever experience. So, in a world full of disruption, it’s not enough to simply sprinkle your organisation with “tech pixie dust” and hope that technology will save you. The new definition of talent is doing something a robot or algorithm can’t, which is of value to the market. Our ability to be creative, bring diverse things together, and pick up on weak signals in small data sets is what set humans apart.

The industrial era was about creating synthetic certainty. While this may have been good for the factories and the government, but it wasn’t necessarily good for the citizens. Thanks to disruption, the world has shifted from the state of synthetic certainty to a new state of hyper uncertainty. Whereas in synthetic certainty, past successes were indicative of future successes, this is no longer the case.

How has industrial era shaped our lives, and how might that change with further disruption? The most obvious answer to this is that the Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm model might erode fully. Already, younger generations are working more flexible hours, which don’t adhere to this. The next is the commute to work, and the need to be in a big city to get the job you want. Remote working can facilitate employees from a much wider geographic range, and cut out the commute all together.

The factory model is dystopian, and no longer effective. But Covid has shaken us up from our slumber, and we can now think about exactly what the role of humans in an organisation should be. Our strength lies in the fact that we have creativity and the ability to perform tasks that AI and other technology just can’t do.

In summary, we need to get to a model where leadership is contextual. Think of a football match – the captains don’t run next to each player, telling them what to do next. In the moment, the player closest to the ball acts as the captain. As we enter this new, post-strategic planning world, getting through each day is the primary job.

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IMI Corporate members can enjoy access to webinars, in-person events and other benefits. You can find out more about Corporate Membership here.

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            [post_title] => Event Insights: Talent Management in an Increasingly Unpredictable World
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            [post_content] => We’ve all heard the saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Yet a recent Gallup study shows that many people are, in fact, not loving their work and are miserable in their jobs, with only 21% of employees engaged at work and 33% thriving in their overall well-being globally. Individually and as a society, we seem to have lost our hope for the future. People want to succeed, but the path to achievement is murky. No one wakes up aiming to be average, but all the messages we receive, consciously and unconsciously, appear to push us to that undistinguishable level.

For nearly a decade, I’ve interviewed scores of high achievers, from astronauts to Olympic gold medalists to Nobel Prize winners, for my book The Success Factor. What was revealing is that irrespective of their industry, all high achievers had four things in common, and any of us can customize them to our own lifestyle, not by copying their habits but by emulating their mindsets.

1) Tap into your intrinsic motivation.

Why did you enter your chosen profession? Getting to the “why” behind your career choice is critical, as it will help you get in touch with your deepest motivations, block out distractions, and potentially adjust (or reengage) with your current path.

For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is motivated by helping others. When I asked how he selects which problems to focus on, he told me that he picks problems that he feels are important, not just interesting. This sentiment was repeated by many of the people I spoke with — they focused on doing work that would make an impact beyond themselves. For the highest achievers, it’s not about the medals, rewards, bonuses, or promotions.

What you can do:

To tap into your intrinsic motivation, ask yourself: What fuels my curiosity? Is it aligned with what fuels my work? If you’re focused only on external factors (like rewards), you’re likely on the path to burnout.

I recommend creating a passion audit, which will help you differentiate between what you are good at versus what you are not, and what you enjoy doing versus where you procrastinate. Look for themes and see how you can embed some of your more passionate tasks into your career.

2) Get comfortable with failure.

Dr. Peggy Whitson is a biochemist who worked at NASA. She always dreamed of becoming an astronaut but was met with repeated hurdles. For a full decade, she applied to be an astronaut but was repeatedly rejected. She didn’t quit after the first, second, or even third rejection. Every time she faced a hurdle, she asked herself, “What strategy have I not thought of yet?” She leveraged what she learned working at NASA to be more competitive as an astronaut applicant, and even went on to become the first female commander of the international space station, and ultimately became NASA’s chief astronaut.

Some people fear failing, while others fear succeeding. High achievers fear “not trying” more than they fear failing. For them, it’s not a question of if they can overcome a challenge; the focus is always on how they can. They consider alternative strategies and work fiercely to control what they can control, and ignore distractions.

What you can do:

To achieve a similar focus, consider this two-step approach. Learn to leverage your cognitive hours, those when you are most able to concentrate, and spend that time on your deep focus work, not passive tasks such as responding to emails or scheduling Zoom meetings, which you can do when you are more sluggish.

Second, consider productivity sprints using the time management Pomodoro method, which has you working and taking scheduled breaks on a predictable cycle. If the work you’re engaged in during this time isn’t bringing you closer to your goal, or giving you the results you want, don’t stop trying or lose focus. Instead, us the time to brainstorm a different approach.

3) Reinforce your foundation.

The week the Nobel Prizes are announced, social media is in a frenzy showing the newly minted award winners going about their usual routine of teaching or writing grants in between press interviews. Despite all of their accolades, high achievers never rest on their laurels. Even if they’ve done a task or routine countless times, they still work on the basic skills foundational to their current — and future — success. It’s why NBA champion Kobe Bryant was famous for practicing the same warm-up routines you’d see in any junior high school gym.

In the military, people are told to “train hard, fight easy.” It’s also the strategy marathon runners use when they train in high altitudes so that running the race in normal conditions feels easier.

What you can do:

Consider the “must-have” skills of your profession and imagine how you can brush up on them or learn to build on them. Instead of letting them get rusty, think about what it would take for you to get to the point where they are so effortless that you can rely on muscle memory to lead you under stress. Do you need more practice? Do you need to practice under challenging conditions? Both strategies will sharpen your abilities.

4) Become a lifelong learner.

The high achievers I spoke with are continuously open to learning, although it is rarely in the classroom. Discussions with mentors, colleagues, peers, and mentees, coupled with reading, observing others, watching videos, and listening to podcasts, all inform their deep reservoir of knowledge.

Christopher Wadell, for instance, grew up as an able-bodied skier until an accident one day left him without use of his lower body. He wanted to return to the slopes and first learned this was possible years earlier when he watched a cancer survivor with one leg on a monoski. That memory was embedded in his mind, and it pushed him to learn to ski in this new way. Today, Christopher Wadell is a decorated Paralympian. He’s won 13 medals, five of them gold.

What you can do:

To increase your knowledge base, which can lead to making connections others don’t yet see, immerse yourself with interesting people and open your mind up to new ideas. Surround yourself with a team of mentors who can offer you challenges and scaffolding to try new things. Consume new ideas in a platform of your choosing — reading books and articles, watching webinars, taking LinkedIn Learning courses, or listening to engaging conversations and interviews.

 

People want to succeed, but there is a lack of understanding and discussion on how to achieve more, and more importantly, be motivated to do it. By learning the lessons from some of the most accomplished people of our generation, we can make average our beginning, not our end goal.

 

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IMI Members can sign up to attend our in-person event, The Success Factor: Developing the Mindset and Skill set for Peak Performance with Ruth Gotian,  taking place on 22nd February in Dublin and 23rd February in Cork.

Non-Members can purchase tickets here for Dublin and Cork. Places are limited.
            [post_title] => 4 Things High Achievers Do Differently: Dr Ruth Gotian
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Farah Barry

Farah Barry

23rd Feb 2023

Related Articles

Event Insights: Talent Management in an Increasingly Unpredictable World
4 Things High Achievers Do Differently: Dr Ruth Gotian

Event Insights: The Mindset for Success with Dr Ruth Gotian

The IMI Masterclass series kicked off in-person for the first time since 2019, with a hugely successful session hosted by Dr Ruth Gotian of Weill Cornell Medicine. Sponsored by Mason Hayes & Curran, this event was the first in a series of three masterclasses, set to take place throughout the year.

IMI Interim CEO, Shane O’Sullivan, welcomed the audience before handing over to Dr Gotian who took us on a journey of discovery, based on the four things every high achiever has in common. Ruth has interviewed Olympians, world-class physicians, and billionaires, and identified four characteristics that we can all channel to work towards success.

Ruth began the session by talking about the concept of being average. Think about your performance reviews. If you’re average, you’re fine, usually no more is said to you. However, if you’re below average, that’s when your line manager is likely to pull out all the stops to help you get to the point of being average. So in other words, we put a lot of emphasis on the people who aren’t meeting certain benchmarks, as opposed to the high achievers. In today’s Masterclass, the focus was flipped to the high achievers, and what we can do to emulate them.

But first – what is success? It’s something that looks different to everyone. Ruth asked the audience to write down what they would consider “success” to be. And while a number of coherent themes began to emerge, it was clear that success really did mean different things to different people. Answers were as diverse as being financially secure, to carrying out meaningful work, continuous learning, and a strong work-life balance. Achieving goals was another theme that came out amongst the attendees.

Now that you’ve identified what success looks like in your particular context, you’ll be able to use the four common elements of high achievers to make those goals a reality.

The Four Elements

All high achievers have intrinsic motivation. This is what helps you wake up excited in the morning, or put another way, it’s the work you’d do for free if you were able.

Dr Gotian recommends undertaking a “passion audit”. Identify the things you’re good at, the things you’re not good at or don’t enjoy, and the things you love doing. Ideally, you’ll fuse what you’re good at with what you love doing, and devote at least 20% of your time to doing what you love. This is a strong tool to combat burnout.

High achievers persevere. They know that they’ll achieve a goal, so the question isn’t if they’ll be able to do something, but rather how they’ll get there.

One example Ruth gives is biochemist Peggy Whitson, who worked for NASA. She applied to be an astronaut and was rejected for a full ten years! But without giving up on her goal, she was able to use her biochemistry learnings to become a better astronaut candidate. Eventually, she did end up as not only an astronaut, but NASA’s chief astronaut!

All high achievers begin within a strong foundation. Have you ever noticed that a professional basketball player does exactly the same warm up exercises as a teenage athlete? This is because the foundation is the same, no matter what level you’re at.

Ruth talks about how none of the Nobel Prize winners she knows have stopped researching since they won the Noble Prize! Nor have any of the Olympic athletes she’s worked with stopped training once they’ve won a gold medal. Once you have the foundations, you need to be constantly re-enforcing them.

Finally, high achievers are always learning. You might have heard people say that billionaires read for 3 – 8 hours every day, but that’s not possible for everyone.

When you have children, a full time job, or other responsibilities, it’s impossible to find so much time to sit down and read, but there are a whole lot of other ways that you can open yourself up to new information. Yes, this can take the form of reading books, but you can also read shorter form magazines or journal articles, or opt for podcasts, webinars, YouTube, or audio books. You might even be surprised about how much you’ll learn simply by speaking to other people.

Towards the end of the session, Ruth touched on the concept of mentoring. If you want to succeed, it’s not enough to simply have one mentor from your industry to guide you through your career journey. You need to have a team of mentors who can offer you different perspectives and experiences.

And who should be on your mentoring team? Firstly, it’s important to have people both from within your field and from outside. There are invaluable learnings that can be gained from totally different industries. Secondly, you should include people from a range of levels in your mentor network. While those at more senior levels than you can bring with them a wealth of experience, people at your level are able to understand your specific challenges, while more junior employees can bring totally different perspectives.

And if we had to pick one titbit that really resonated with our audience (so much so that they could be heard debating it throughout the coffee break and beyond), it was the notion of “Velcro vs Teflon”. If something bad happens to you, does it stick to you like Velcro? If so, it’s probably weighing you down. Whereas, if you’re more like Teflon, you’ll find that anything negative simply slides right off you! While there’s no quick way to make the switch, it helps to be aware of where you lie, and you can rest assured that with time and experience, you’re likely to swing more towards Teflon.

IMI Corporate members can enjoy access to webinars, in-person events and other benefits. You can find out more about Corporate Membership here.