The Art of Leadership Conference, Calgary

On Friday last week, a few of our team were at the BMO center at Stampede Park attending the Art of Leadership Conference. The speakers were good and the space was beautiful. Here’s misters David Cory and Kim Cairns standing at our table in the morning before the attendees showed up.

There were seventeen hundred participants there and five speakers. We weren’t the only partner tabling there. There was also the Calgary Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysisthe Canadian College of Health Leaders, Calgary is Awesome, Propellus (formerly Volunteer Calgary), Wiley Canada and others. Sponsors also included some large companies like Microsoft Canada.

The attendees were super engaged and we were excited by just how many were interested in EQ and emotional intelligence training. Here’s a few of my personal take aways from the speakers.

John Mackey

Mackey’s talk reflected his interests in social justice and many points from his book, Conscious Capitalism. My take away from Mackey was that leaders need to make it a priority to think deeply about their purpose and then engage their team in that purpose. Business models are important and all aspects of the business need to be examined, especially the impacts of your business on the more distant and less visible stakeholders. I love that Mackey held up Tim Berner’s Lee, who is a hero of mine, as a paradigm of success in leadership.

Christine Comaford

Comaford had a very training oriented approach to her talk that perhaps didn’t go over super well with the large crowd. But I really enjoyed her talk and she hit many points that will leave me thinking and I’ll probably get her book, Smart Tribes. One interesting model she reviewed for us was the brain stem (lizard brain), mammalian brain (a.k.a. critter brain) and cerebral cortex (smart brain) model. She referred back to it often in the context of conversations and meetings and how easy it is to pull people out of their executive brain.

Question someone’s character or competence or suggest that they don’t matter, for example, and they can easily end up in their critter brain. Or worse, create an atmosphere of fear and risk, and individuals can end up in their lizard brain. Instead of a meeting about events and goals and developments and decisions, the entire meeting can be spent bringing everyone back into their smart brains. I love this heuristic, even if I’ve oversimplified it at a little. And I find it especially provocative to think about the way this can happen to me.

I will also take away Comaford’s reflections on introducing new ideas and policies. She notes that leaders need to become okay with mockery. Yes, you read that right. Mockery is an important and healthy step toward usefulness and adoption. When policies or directions or ideas get rolled out, mockery can be a really valuable first response by the team. It’s a valuable feedback process for one, especially if the feedback is respected. But secondly, this feedback is a process of mutual understanding and engagement, and yes, habit formation. Cool.

Amy C. Edmonson

Edmonson’s talk was also very provocative. My take away from Edmonson is that productive teams are teams that fail well and face criticism well. Productive groups team (verb) and love teaming (verb). Her research on medical contexts showed an almost direct relationship in the accuracy of failure and error reports with the felt safety of the team. Too often, there are unseen barriers to accurate error reporting. To do better, you need to see problems. To see problems, you need to create a sense of team safety, or as Edmonson called it, psychological safety. This means in part, hugging messengers. Not shooting them is too low a bar.

Colin Powell, Chester Elton

Elton closed the morning and General Powell closed the afternoon. They are both very engaging speakers – although with almost diametrically opposed styles. I’ll summarize thusly: invest in your troops, and show appreciation directly and publicly. Awesome.

Thanks to everyone who came by our booth, retweeted our tweets and made our day a fantastic success.

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