Whole Person Leadership

Interconnectedness at the root.

Aspen trees are one of the largest biological organisms in the world. Each tree is genetically identical to the next and connects through their roots underground. One stand of trees can cover acres of land. A stand in Utah covers over 100 acres and is one of the biggest biological masses in the world. The concept of interconnectedness is a huge part of human organizational development as well.

Changes to one part of a company have an impact or unintended consequence on another. Similarly, acting on the effect of a situation may not impact the cause. For example, it’s common for people to tell us that the biggest problem they have in their organization is “communication.” In reality, poor communication may be the result of conflicting priorities, lack of trust, ineffective systems, or a host of other issues. Think: the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

 

Why “whole systems” matter.

The idea of considering interconnectedness or “whole systems” applies to individual management development, as well as organizations. Many leaders approach improving performance for managers through the efficiency mindset. This method focuses on instilling skills and habits in the areas in which the individual is “deficient.” It assumes the deficiency is clearly defined; that it is the sole source of the problem and that other characteristics are operating sufficiently to support the desired change.

This efficiency model is a very mechanistic approach, often attacking the symptom rather than the problem. It is akin to quieting a dashboard rattle with a cardboard wedge when the real problem is wheel alignment. For example, a leader might focus on an individual’s need to improve their skill in communicating, not realizing that they have significant challenges in managing priorities. In their day-to-day firefighting efforts, they are unable to invest the time to communicate effectively. Addressing communication skills without focusing on priority management is a waste of development resources.

 

Think “big picture.”

We believe that people are complex systems with characteristics and traits that are connected and interdependent. True transformational improvements or real change for individuals can only come from a whole system, or more specifically, a whole-person approach. This approach allows the individual to evaluate their specific improvement needs in the context of all characteristics and then implement an appropriate and effective action plan to realize the desired changes.

 

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