Leading in the Midst of Chaos: Lessons from the Masai Mara

I’ve just returned to work from the holiday of a lifetime; a safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara during migration season.  At one point I was lucky enough to see 3,000 animals take an hour-long crossing over the river; the dust and the noise was incredible.  So, I hear you say, what’s the connection to leadership?  Read on…

a&dc has been researching leadership for the past 8 years and has developed a proven model of behaviours that navigate success in the modern, ever-changing workplace.  Since the Mara Crossing, I’ve been pondering the ways I witnessed the different animal ‘actors’ in this drama and how each of them demonstrated what we know are essential behaviours for survival in what was their own VUCA world.

In our LIVED® model (Learning, Intellect, Values, Emotions and Drive) we say that leaders should constantly seek and apply learning opportunities.  I’ll give the prize for the best learner to the crocodile.  Ahead of the crossing they enjoyed soaking up the sun, but once ‘on alert’ they positioned themselves either near to the rocky bank where the animals needed to scramble up in order to reach safety or in the depths of the river where they couldn’t be seen.  Clearly they put their prior learning into practice, knowing that this will give them the best chance of a good lunch!

Leaders also need to think incisively, deal with complex and ambiguous information and take sound decisions based on their analysis.  The leopard, whom we saw surveying the scene from afar, watched and waited from within the bushes on the side where the animals were crossing.  looking for any opportunity; a vulnerable or wounded animal who would make an easy catch.

LIVED® leaders act in an authentic and consistent way, demonstrating integrity, courage and respect for others.  The wildebeest demonstrated the most values.  In the chaos of crossing, families are separated in the dash for safety.  Inevitably, some crossed but others didn’t.  On realising this, they called to each other from across the river.  Some even crossed back, regardless of the danger.

Leaders need to manage their own emotions effectively, build positive relationships and use emotions to influence and inspire others. The topis (antelopes) were the first animals down to the river’s edge in family clusters; the situation could have made them excited, nervous and panicked.  On several occasions they hesitated, communicated with each other that something was awry and fled calmly to the safety of the bush to await a better time to cross.

However, the zebras lead the way and took the first plunge that everyone else followed.  For sure they exhibit considerable drive over the 4-minute crossing, fraught with danger, which gave all other animals the mindset to push through the danger.  LIVED leaders set challenging goals, take an action oriented approach, show determination to overcome obstacles and act decisively; much like the zebra!

Whilst I’m not going to advocate that a&dc’s next target market for our LIVED model should be the animals of the Masai Mara, it was nevertheless fascinating to evidence the ways in which leadership behaviours are not just the preserve of us as human beings.  In this way, the animals ‘delivered’ a totally awe-inspiring experience.

Read more more about LIVED here.

Author: Karen West

5 Reasons why Behaviour is the Key to Optimising your Talent

In talent management, assessment and development are key for ensuring anyone in your organisation is a) aligned to the right parts of the business, b) equipped with the right capabilities to perform, and c) engaged and motivated to embody the company’s mission, vision and values.

So what do you actually measure when you assess and develop talent?  Whether it’s values, personality, ability, technical skills or competencies; what truly is the most important and effective variable for performance at work?

We know from research that the answer to this question is behaviour.  Here are 5 reasons why.

  1. Behaviour directly influences performance

Behaviour is simply what people say or do.  Behaviour can also be a lack of doing or saying anything when it may be expected of them.  Individual and organisational performance cannot happen without individuals taking action, or choosing to do nothing.  In the words of the hero in Batman Begins: “It’s not about who we are underneath, it’s about what we do that defines us.

  1. Behaviour is most accurate

This isn’t to say emotions, personality, beliefs etc. aren’t important, but they don’t confirm that we’ll actually carry out the things that we intend, or do them in the way we intended.  These constructs also live ‘under the surface’, where we have to interpret what they mean because we can’t see them directly.  In contrast, we can actually see behaviour happening.  We can’t align or develop our talent properly until we get the best picture of how people genuinely and naturally behave at work.

  1. Behaviour is objective

Have you ever known someone be turned down for a promotion and be upset with the process?  Have you ever seen a developmental feedback report and found the results useless or inaccurate?  People buy-in to decisions and feedback far more readily if it’s based on an actual observations, made by someone impartial and objective, from an activity that simulates their work environment (if not their actual environment).  At a&dc, we train assessors to eliminate unconscious bias from their decision-making process in order to achieve this.

What’s the benefit?  Greater engagement and perceived fairness from your workforce; both highly influential characteristics in effective organisations.

  1. Behaviour enables strategic decisions

Behavioural assessment, for whatever purpose, enables you to capture valuable, objective data about your talent, because it’s fair and accurate.  This information is essential for making strategic decisions about how to select, align, develop and engage your people in order to function better as a company, and that in itself is a major benefit.  You couldn’t do this by assessing personality or intellectual ability alone, because it doesn’t give you enough precise information about how your talents’ strengths and weaknesses are actually expressed in the workplace.

  1. Behaviour makes HR more valuable

Organisations are increasingly finding themselves in situations of complexity and ambiguity.  Change is accelerating at its most rapid pace ever in the workplace, and dealing with change requires the most important resource, human talent, to function at its very best.  As a result, talent management (or perhaps more importantly talent optimisation) is now an essential part of maintaining competitive advantage.

Your business needs to hear this, because I’ve seen in too many companies that HR and Talent Management are criminally undervalued functions.  There’s no better way to guarantee that your talent optimisation initiatives are working and having a business impact than by evaluating them.  Behaviour is one of the most simple things to measure, replicate and evaluate as it only requires objective observation in realistic simulations or real-life tasks.

So ask yourself this question: Are you effectively focusing on behaviour in your talent initiatives?

If you can do more with this vital aspect of talent management and optimisation, give us a call for some free advice.  After all, we are the leaders in behavioural assessment and development.

Author: Jordon Jones