Inspiring Conscious Leadership
By Ron J. West
The Chrysalis Program® is a six-month Vertical Leadership Development experience for an intact team or group of leaders. At the core of the program is the Leadership Circle Profile (LCP). Even in six short months, the delta from the initial and exit LCPs demonstrates measurable development of conscious leadership. What is unexpected is both the importance and impact of free-form comments in LCPs. In addition to their established role in helping identify themes for leadership development, they act as inspiration for the leader, too.
I was well-schooled in the importance of using assessments in the executive coaching process by both the University of Texas, and when working with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) as an executive coach. I have since relied upon a broad range of assessments over several thousand hours of coaching of senior executives around the world. Executive coaching and assessments are an effective combination.
Initially, I thought to design and develop a range of experiential workshops and merge them with my executive coaching to form a leadership development program of my own. As traditional leadership development efforts often fail to live up to their touted claims, I thought to make a number of additions. For example, I thought to include accountability buddies, senior leadership sponsors, experienced mentors, peer learning experiences, a careful selection of supplemental content, projects to support behavior experimentation, an entire follow-on program, and a demanding regime of weekly physical workouts with a professional trainer.
At this stage of development, such a program could certainly meet a wide range of leadership training needs. However, my primary aim was to create the conditions for the accelerated development of conscious leadership. That required something different.
The Chrysalis Code®
According to the established science of adult development theory, we have the potential to continue to grow and develop far beyond where most adults get “stuck” and plateau. This science can be used as a foundation for a very powerful leadership development program. In this application, it is usually referred to as vertical development.
Before I could design and develop the Chrysalis Program, I needed to build an entire architecture grounded in adult development theory. The Chrysalis Code®1 integrates horizontal training — the addition of skills and knowledge — and vertical development — growing abilities to think, feel, and act in complex, systemic, and interdependent ways.
Many organizations only employ coaches for senior levels of leadership. The Chrysalis Code® provides a more cost-effective approach that can be efficiently deployed at many levels of leadership. It relies upon a blended approach including: vertical coaching coupled with four interactive workshops, directed individual and team study, live team coaching in the workshops, accountability buddy exercises, (optional) physical exercise regime, triad pod assignments and shared responsibilities for an entire cohort of ten or more peers that together create the psychological safety for vulnerable exchange and accelerated development. To personalize the journey, each participant receives one-on-one vertical coaching from a fixed contract or offered as a subscription service. The more traditional horizontal training element is used to challenge how participants make sense of the world. The result is a cost-effective solution that works
The Chrysalis Program has profoundly impacted our culture within Samsung. I am impressed with the rapid growth achieved in such a short time. Our leadership is communicating more effectively and collaborating more efficiently as a direct result of the program. To watch the unique journey of each leader – their personal evolution, increased awareness, and renewed joy for their role – has been truly rewarding.
– SVP GH Choi
President of Samsung Austin Semiconductor
Leadership Circle Profile
There are some fine tools available to measure one’s adult stage of development (M.A.P., Global Leadership Profile, and the subject-object interview among them). I chose to use the Transformations™ card deck developed by Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth from CCL to start the vertical development conversation. It avoids making the stages looking like a kind of race to be won. Instead, it helps focus the conversation on a more natural journey of growth and development to meet and match the prevailing challenge(s). However, there are very few examples of complete stage changes being accomplished in less than several years, so it would not alone suffice as a measure of progress.
A 360-assessment instrument provides many benefits. In addition to potentially being able to demonstrate a Return-On-Investment to the client company, it typically provides information about the perception of a participant’s boss’ boss, boss, peers, direct report, and others on the participant’s leadership effectiveness and impact. It also potentially engages everyone that provides feedback in the development process as well as a starting (and maybe an ending) point of measure for the participant. And, the Leadership Circle Profile is without a peer in the pursuit of conscious leadership.
At launch, I relied upon a client’s own choice of assessment. Each was based on their own leadership framework and none seem to demonstrate the kind of vertical growth I was hoping to see over time. I was introduced to the Leadership Circle Profile. The compelling research on which the assessment instrument is based is detailed in Mastering Leadership. In the book, Bob Anderson and Bill Adams conclude that: “Not only is leadership effectiveness highly related to Adult Stages of Development, but business performance is strongly correlated to leadership effectiveness.”
It is helpful to compare the summary depiction of The Leadership Circle Profile 360-assessment at the start (INITIAL) and at the end (EXIT) of the Chrysalis Program for a typical Chrysalis Program graduate. The shaded area on the top half of the outer circle depicts the combined scores provided by the participant’s raters for all of their Creative Competencies. The more shading, the better. The black line is the participant’s self-scores.
The bottom half of the circle depicts the Reactive Tendencies, or triggered responses. In this case, less shading is better. The combination of Creative Competencies and Reactive Tendencies provides a general indication of the maturity (or lack thereof) of the leader in their stage of adult development.
- Initially, participants were much harsher/less aware on their self-scores.
- On EXIT participant self-scores were much closer to scores by others.
- Participant made measurable improvements in all Creative Competencies
(Top half of circle).
- Even more significant reductions in triggered Reactive Tendencies
(Bottom half of circle).
- Reduction in fear-based responses fueled growth in Relating and Awareness leadership competencies.
Many of the participants focused on developing specific competencies. Others put their effort into becoming aware of triggered responses and worked to replace them with other Creative responses. But in each cohort, there were always one or two participants that did not show significant improvement in their scores. In fact, in a few cases, they were marginally worse. There are a number of possible reasons, but their comments showed a different story.
Bob Anderson and Bill Adams’ book, Scaling Leadership, reported on an extensive analysis of open-ended comments from more than 1.5 million LCPs. The authors stressed that: “Feedback facilitates development because people around us see us with great precision. They see the Full Spectrum of Leadership and can place us in it.”
After the book was published, and out of curiosity, I carefully reviewed the pairs of Leadership Circle Profiles that did not show any noticeable numeric improvement from Initial to Exit. What I discovered was a consistent and very noticeable difference in the open comments. Though the scores appeared very similar, the comments were more extensive, more positive, and even more encouraging. During their extensive debriefs, those participants that learned of the numeric improvements in their scores left visibly delighted with their achievements and motivated to stay the course. The surprise came from those whose numeric scores were no better or even worse. They left even more motivated by the comments they received.
As a consequence of the whole experience, I have inserted additional guidance for Chrysalis Program participants on how best to enroll others in providing feedback – especially comments. Their value in helping to keep leaders on the growth edge and inspired to develop their conscious leadership has shown to be much greater than I had assumed. Properly framed and shared, comments from others can be massively motivating in the journey to more conscious leadership.
Ron J West is an accomplished executive coach, workshop facilitator, speaker, and writer out to change the world – one leader at a time. He has invested his entire career in a number of senior leadership roles to achieve large-scale change in a wide range of industries. He believes that only when leaders transform themselves can the transformation of an organization be successful. Ron published CORPORATE CATERPILLARS – How to Grow Wings and is currently working on THE CHRYSALIS CODE® – a story of the transformation possible when attending Ron’s signature CHRYSALIS (VERTICAL LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT) PROGRAM®.