Meeting your full potential as a leader often requires a close look at the behaviors, skills, and mindset you need in order to be successful and influence others.
Christie Berger, an executive coach with a learning and development background, has a broad base of experience in helping leaders do just this so they can accelerate their performance and create more value within their organizations and communities.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with Christie about the connection between learning and leadership, ways to improve leadership and increase influence, as well as common mistakes that leaders often make. They also dive into the topic of women and leadership and the work Christie is doing around this through her Fusion Leader Circuit program.
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[00:18] – Our sponsor this quarter is ReviewMyLMS, a collaboration between our company, Tagoras, and 100Reviews, the company that is behind the very successful ReviewMyAMS site. As the name suggests, ReviewMyLMS is a site where users can share and access reviews of learning management systems, but in this case, the focus is specifically on systems that are a good fit for learning businesses, meaning organizations that market and sell lifelong learning. Contribute a review and you will get access to all existing and future reviews—there are already more than 100 on the site. And, if you don’t have review to contribute, there is also a subscription option. Just go to reviewmylms.com to get all the detail.
[01:20] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa interviews executive leadership coach Christie Berger.
[02:52] – Introduction to Christie and some additional information about her work.
[03:55] – This is the Leading Learning Podcast, and so I’m particularly interested in the learning angle of what you do. Before focusing on executive coaching, I know that you served as Learning and Development Manager for Simplex Healthcare, and dealt with things like effective on-boarding, employee engagement, and leadership development there, so you’ve been in the shoes of some of our listeners, who are very hands-on in L&D. How do you see the connection between learning and leadership, between learning and the leadership coaching that you do? Christie talks about how effective leaders, especially in this day and age, have to put ongoing learning as a priority. You have to keep learning in order to lead effectively because the landscape is changing, whether it be within the business itself or the role transitions that people take. It’s going to be important to step back and ask what success looks like in the business and what it looks like for leaders and their positions—and then create those success profiles and learning plans to meet the needs and create the most value for the business.
[05:35] – Can you talk a little bit about what those learning plans tend to look like? Do you find that most leaders are making use of a mix of formal learning experiences and self-directed learning? What type of resources do leaders tend to look to? Christie explains it’s a combination and ideally it would be in tandem with the learning and development folks within the organization. As an executive coach, her main focus is to look at how leaders create their own learning agenda and how they use a hybrid approach of self-directed learning vs. utilizing classes (whether internal or external) to ultimately meet the learning needs and learning goals they set forth. A lot of times these are identified through assessments with the success profiles of their roles, something Christie works with leaders on to craft a customized approach to meet individual learning needs.
[07:20] – I know that you see influence as key to leadership—and more important than role-based authority. What creates influence? How do you help a coachee become a person of influence? Christie emphasizes that the ability to influence is going to be key for leaders to be successful. In order to be more influential, she recommends leaders to first take stock of where their role is within the organization—so what does their role require of them and who does it touch within the organization. One way she helps leaders is to create a “relational map”. If people can get a better understanding of those key points within the organization and what matters to others, they can create and craft their messaging and resources in order to help support them. Leaders also need to look at how they can get better with their interpersonal relationships. The key to influence is having a genuine mindset of learning and service—when you do this without an agenda, people pick up on it.
[10:00] – Christie further discusses the importance of looking at our mindset of how we define leadership and how we define what it means to be influential. Part of that in a coaching relationship is partnering with the leader to start to define what that means for them. Then they can look at the behaviors that will drive them to be more influential and create more relational capital. Unfortunately, people often wait until they are in leadership roles to do this so one key thing she does is work with leaders to build relationships—or “put deposits in the bank”—so when you are in a position when you need to influence, you can make a “withdrawal”.
[12:35] – Are there ideas or actions that tend to improve leadership regardless of the particular individuals or organizations involved? Is there low-hanging leadership fruit, so to speak? Christie shares a few key components to improve leadership that usually transfer:
- Have the right mindset – it’s about having a learning mindset, being curious and not thinking you have to be right. So moving the pendulum from judging to the learner. Once you do that, regardless of your role, your ability to influence and collaborate with others is going to be greater.
- Recognize that we don’t work in isolation – relationships are very important and the key is going to be around seeing the value around networking across the organization as well as outside the organization. In order to be strategic, you have to expand your sources of information.
[16:06] – Do you tend to see common mistakes or missteps in leadership regardless of the individuals or organizations involved? Christie points out first that everyone is unique but some of the common mistakes she sees people make is they tend to think what made them successful in previous roles or companies is going to automatically make them successful in their new role/organization. She stresses the importance of doing a “leadership audit” to see what skills and mindset are needed in the new role. Once you establish this, you can work backwards to see what behaviors, skills, and mindset you need to acquire in order to be successful. Sometimes Christie comes across leaders who say they don’t have time for additional reading or learning and so she says we need to look at how to integrate learning/microlearning (small chunks) and then customize that for those leaders so it becomes the norm for them.
[20:52] – I know that in your 1:1 coaching work, you work with men and women, but you’ve also created an executive development opportunity specifically for women leaders. Would you tell us a bit about what the Fusion Leader Circuits are and what prompted you to start them? Christie explains that the Fusion Leader Circuits came about very organically through conversations with people she worked with. Although she works with more men in senior leadership positions, she found some common developmental themes with the women. Christie felt like she was in a unique position to bring these women together so she created a place for them to have a neutral place to explore some of the opportunities and challenges from a developmental standpoint and also to build community. The whole concept of this circuit is movement so they move around the city in order to expose the participants to different organizations to increase their awareness around what else is out there in the community. It’s also noted this requires a yearlong commitment to create depth of learning and relationships.
[25:24] – If I have the timing right, you’d launched the Fusion Leader Circuits before the #MeToo movement gained momentum, but I’m wondering if you have thoughts about women leaders and the #MeToo movement? Christie talks about how the #MeToo movement is really about survivorship and the way it’s been utilized in work settings is good and we all need to have a voice and to be treated equally regardless of gender or race. She says there has to be mindfulness of utilizing the #MeToo construct in a positive way—sponsorship and mentorship are key for having diversity in our leadership positions. Since men are often in the roles of the highest levels of leadership, they need to feel comfortable in supporting women. Christie recently read that some are uncertain of how to do this so she points out we all need to have courage to reach out and figure out how to embrace diversity and support women to reach the next level of leadership.
[27:25] – Based on your experience as a coach, what advice do you have for leaders in the business of lifelong learning who want to take their learning business to higher performance, and what advice do you have for aspiring leaders in the business lifelong learning? Christie’s advice is that you need to put yourself first and nurture your own learning in order to be of more service to those that you work with. The idea of goal-setting is also important to see what you need but you also need to be fluid so you’re open to things that are unexpected.
[29:14] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education? Christie shares an impactful, formal learning experience she had was with a program through the NeuroLeadership Institute, called the Brain-Based Coaching certification. The program really opened her eyes to look at the science behind learning. On the informal side, she says she’s been committed to pushing herself outside of her comfort zone so she seeks out experiences where she feels uncomfortable. Christie explains how fortunate she is to get to work with some of the greatest leaders and organizations and she’s challenged by them every single day. She says you have to model what you want in what you’re teaching so you have to have that humility and confidence to do it in the moment.
[32:58] – How to connect with Christie and/or learn more:
[33:25] – Wrap Up
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[35:21] – Sign off
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