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How to develop business skills with a leadership simulator

How to develop business skills with a leadership simulator

12 October 2020|Latest Posts, Psychology

How to develop business skills with a leadership simulator
How to develop business skills with a leadership simulator

By Rosie Tomkins, author of ‘N-stinctive’.  Entrepreneurs are brave people but even you wouldn’t jump into a plane if you knew the pilot had learned to fly by reading a book.

You are willing to trust pilots because you know they have spent hundreds of hours in a flight simulator. They are experts at what they do, because they know what it feels like to fly an aircraft through an electric storm. They know how it feels when they lose the tyre on take-off. They know how it feels to land a jumbo jet in a fierce crosswind. Most of all, you need to feel that they have confidence in their own ability to cope under pressure, whatever happens.

Book and classroom teaching are useful and necessary, but they’re not enough. Like the pilot entrepreneurs also need ‘real’ experience of a variety of situations where we can try, in a safe environment, different approaches. A pilot doesn’t wait for his engine to fail at 30,000 feet before s/he tries out approaches to deal with the situation.  S/he spends time in a simulator where a range of different solutions can be tested and then practiced. As entrepreneurs, leaders in our business we need the same. 

In other words, we need a Leadership Simulator where we can hone our skills, make mistakes without catastrophic results, celebrate our innate qualities and those of our teams, and initiate new ways and ideas without suppression.

I believe this Leadership Simulator has to be outside the classroom, it has to be experiential, and it has to include the “nature factor” (NQ), working alongside other living flora and fauna. Why? Because we need to get immediate feedback. Trying an approach but not experiencing the result won’t help us much. In nature we have the perfect simulator which can allow us to practice and give us instant feedback. Imagine getting immediate feedback in a non-judgemental way from another living thing (that has no vested interest). It would be, and is, incredibly valuable!

So, how can you develop a Leadership Simulator in nature, for your startup or growth business?  Let’s look at two examples that will help you get out of your comfort zone gain a new perspective:

Scenario one – The Spider

In nature – Spiders are truly amazing creatures. For many they are considered household pests and scary or dirty. However, when you take a deeper look at the life of a spider there are many attributes that could resonate strongly within a successful business team. For example;

·  Patience – A spider is the master of patience. They trust in their abilities to create the perfect web and will wait patiently (sometimes for days) for their next meal, only moving to make small adjustments to their web.

·  Resilience – How many times have we purposely or inadvertently broken a spider’s web? Many! Yet they are able to find the energy and composure to begin again. They are resilient against all kinds of threat and can always move to a less volatile space to build their next home.

·  Adaptability – The spider needs to be adaptable. They thrive in all conditions, from deserts, to jungles, to houses to shoe boxes. No environment is too extreme and they are experts at making the best of a non-ideal situation.

·  Detail oriented – A hole in their web weakens the whole structure making it more vulnerable to falling apart, or it may fail to catch the elusive fly for dinner. For this reason, they spend much of their day fine-tuning the web to ensure maximum productivity.

·  Creativity/Artistic – Take a close look at a spider’s web and you’ll notice the incredible intricacy of the silk strands. They truly are architectural masters and talented artists.

·  Strategy – The placement of their web can make the difference between eating and hunger. It can also make the difference between a few days of safety and needing to rebuild from scratch within a few hours. Building a web takes a considerable amount of time and energy for a spider, so they only want to do it once!

Simulation – Why does this all matter? And what does it have to do with leadership? Well, depending on what lens you have on a team, it can look very different. What could be seen as inactivity in one glance might be seen as patience in another. Being patient, resilient, adaptable, detail oriented, creative and strategic are all very strong assets for any successful team. Whilst a spider has all of these, it is unlikely that a single human will embody all these attributes, so why not look deeply at your team and assess their strengths (and weaknesses) and notice how they are distributed. Can a perceived weakness be a source of great strength? And do you have a mixture of these attributes in your team?

Scenario two – The Butterfly

In nature – Butterflies are the epitome of transformation. They live and thrive in three difference natural states (caterpillar, pupa and butterfly). Their ability to undergo this metamorphosis takes time, patience, and the correct nurturing environment, but little else in the way of tools. It is a natural process that they don’t need to learn; it is simply inherent in their genes.

Simulation – The same can be said for a well-designed team. As a leader we need to be patient and create a nurturing environment. The team will naturally take itself from ordinary (caterpillar) to outstanding (butterfly) if the correct conditions are present; often without the need for strict guidance through the learning journey. In this sense, it is better for a leader to focus on the workplace environment, making it enjoyable and hospitable, than to micro-manage the specific tasks of each team member. The transformation will take care of itself.

Next Steps

Nature is a powerful tool and one that we can all learn from if we take the time to observe its lessons. The most powerful way to conduct a leadership simulation is to take your whole team an experiential leadership day connecting with nature, guided by a professional. There are many organisations now offering this kind of work, and it is safe because it is outdoors.

For example, including horses in leadership training is a great way to get instant feedback. By running workshops on my farm, with the horses, the entrepreneurs and their teams are taken out of their normal environment and the horses provide immediate, but judgement free, feedback. The experience with the horses allows people to adapt smoothly to changing realities (as the horse reacts to their behaviour). By learning to adapt in the moment your self-esteem can be boosted, especially in the face of uncertainty. Even entrepreneurs who usually navigate change well, can benefit from live feedback and a much-needed confidence boost at this time difficult time. See: https://vimeo.com/441676304  

Horses are a great feedback mechanism as they are very sensitive, but you can also get feedback on your abilities yourself with your own pet cat or dog (ensure you are always kind and respectful, not aggressive or hurtful). The reaction will not be quite as useful as they already know you, but they still come without judgement and can be a good way to get you thinking about different approaches.

Remember memories are stored in the muscles. They are literally embodied. Imagine a leadership simulator experience with your team that combines the skills and techniques of the leading thought strategies with a deep understanding of your own personal physiology. Where in a safe environment you can access the impact of stress and pressure on your decision-making capabilities and general wellbeing.

The learning can be transformational

These are different ways to challenge yourself, as an entrepreneur and leader, and to also to challenge your team.  A natural leadership simulator experience will take you outside your comfort zone and challenge your deeply held belief.  This will make you and your team stronger and more confident in your abilities so you can successfully navigate this changing world that we are all learning to live in.

Rosie Tomkins is founder of the Natural Capital Consultancy and author of ‘N-stinctive’, an inspirational book that introduces an alternative to traditional leadership training by unlocking the power of the natural world to provide strength and confidence to people who are shouldering huge responsibility.

Rosie’s clients include the GB Olympic hockey and England rugby teams, the NHS and multi-national companies in the airline, engineering and pharmaceutical industries.

Website – www.n-stinctive.com

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Video – https://vimeo.com/441676304