For the last two months, I’ve been writing a series of Insights about learning agility and the work that my firm, EASI·Consult, has done on the topic with Warner Burke, Ph.D., a professor and researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Burke has created and validated a test that measures learning agility, appropriately called the Burke Learning Agility Inventory (Burke LAI). Learning agility is seen as being closely related to leadership potential. There are nine dimensions to the Burke LAI:
- Performance Risk Taking
- Interpersonal Risk Taking
- Information Gathering
- Feedback Seeking.
In this series on learning agility, I’m providing a close-up view of what each of the nine dimension looks like in situations at work and outside of work. In this column, I’m going to address Interpersonal Risk Taking.
Burke defines Interpersonal Risk Taking as confronting differences with others in ways that lead to learning and change.
Here’s an example of Interpersonal Risk Taking from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. In this part of the book, Lincoln is trying to gain enough support in Congress to pass the 13th Amendment which would ban slavery.
“He assigned two of his allies in the House to deliver the votes of two wavering members. When they asked how to proceed, he said, ‘I am the President of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come – a measure of such importance that those two votes must be procured. I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done; … I expect you to procure those votes.’” It was clear to his emissaries that his power extended to plum assignments, pardons, campaign contributions, and government jobs for relatives and friends of faithful members. Democrat Moses F. Odell agreed to change his vote; when the session ended, he was given the lucrative post of navy agent in New York.
The book continues:
“… At first it appeared that the amendment had fallen two or three votes short of the requisite two-thirds margin. The floor was in tumult when Speaker
(Schuyler) Colfax stood to announce the final tally.
“‘On the passage to amend the constitution of the United States the ayes have 119, the noes 56…. the joint resolution has passed.”’ Without the five Democrats who had changed their votes, the amendment would have lost. “
Now let’s return to learning agility and Interpersonal Risk Taking. I’m going to take you through a fictitious example involving Con Gen, a pharmaceutical company with a division in the personal products area. The salespeople who represent different products to the same customer do not demonstrate Interpersonal Risk Taking.
As the sales team at Con Gen is currently structured, it is possible that one customer could be called on by six different sales representatives. Each product organization in Con Gen has its own shipping process, payment methods and terms. This approach doesn’t make sense to the sales representatives and it irritates their customers. One of Con Gen’s biggest customers, a nationwide drugstore chain, was heard to be in discussions with one of Con Gen’s competitors about procuring the same products but doing so in a more business-friendly way.
In our second example, Con Gen’s sales force is introduced to the Burke LAI) In addition to each salesperson getting his or her individual score, there are summary profiles for each sales region and the sales force as a group. Con Gen wants to use the Burke LAI information to address the problem with the drugstore chain.
Con Gen was having its sales convention when word of the issue with the major chain drugstore surfaced. One segment of the next day’s session at the convention was devoted to the Burke LAI. There were concurrent sessions scheduled by sales region, so each room would have the sales people serving the same customer together. The Burke LAI results showed some development needs in other areas, but the biggest “gap” was in Interpersonal Risk Taking. The region that called on the drugstore chain developed a solution to address the Interpersonal Risk Taking issue. The vice president of sales appointed a task force from the sales team with the mission of bringing the proposed solution to the client, and gave them the ability to modify the solution if needed.
This is an example of Interpersonal Risk Taking in action.
EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call 800.922.EASI.