Episode 7: Capacity Development

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In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring the principle of capacity development. As humans, we can choose to continuously develop our capacity...or not. We're exploring simple ways to focus on building your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual capacity in order to develop yourself as a stronger and more consistent leader of your life and your work.

Leadership Development Focus: Capacity Development

We have checked with people in different countries as to whether the topic of capacity development is one that is considered in leadership development. We found that it is not and that in different languages, the translation of the words capacity development is difficult.  When there is difficulty in translating words, there is a challenge to adequately convey the concept. As we do our best to convey the concept of capacity development, we offer you the opportunity to consider expanding your capacity as an important part of your leadership development.

Let us begin by thinking of capacity development as developing the ability to increase what you hold: knowledge, experiences, as well as emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual consciousness. Capacity development is not a destination.  It is an ongoing process through life and through leadership if we choose it to be so. We can experience capacity development as an evolutionary process, a process in which we expand ourselves to the fullest extent of our personal potential over time.

The Paradox of Capacity Development

Expanding your personal potential or supporting members of your organization in expanding their personal potential can be challenging.  It can be challenging because the societal norm does not truly value capacity development.  The undervaluing is rooted in fear that if capacity is developed, it may be difficult to exert authority over the person.

In today’s society, this is a great paradox. That capacity development is important to help individuals and organizations to thrive in our rapidly changing world, but that increased capacity development is a threat to authority.

In our organizations we say that we want to develop potential, to work from people’s strengths, to tap into people’s creativity as it relates to their potential and the potential of the organization. We say we want to develop the abilities of people, their skill sets, and thus their contributions to the greater whole. A great deal of work and resources go into doing so.

Paradoxically, when the capacity expands and evolves and the person claims more and more authority to think, feel and act, our organizations often cannot cope with this expanded capacity.  This inability to cope with the expanded capacity can result in a variety of behaviors and actions that are often detrimental to the person and the organization. Because of this paradox, it is critical to consider the role of capacity development within the context of nourishing a culture of extraordinary leadership. What needs to be done to resolve this paradox and embrace the opportunities capacity development has to offer?

In relation to the paradox about capacity development, think about why we box in research and development as well as innovation departments into particular silos in our organizations. R&D is its own department that may or may not interface with other departments.  Innovation is its own department that may or may not interface with other departments. Few organizations value research, development, experimentation and innovation throughout the organization, despite saying that new ideas are welcome. As you set out to explore whether you wish to add capacity development to your leadership development goals, this can be an important element to consider. How can capacity development through research, development, experimentation, and innovation be supported throughout all of the parts of you? Throughout all of the parts of the organization?

Capacity Development is Infinite

Capacity cannot be contained to a preset or fixed amount. It is always growing as part of being human. We watch how the capacity of children grows and it is obvious that humans can continually develop our capacity.

The only thing limiting our capacity development is our belief that we cannot learn something new. It takes courage to develop one’s capacity as the expansion of capacity tends to require us to venture into the unknown. We can choose to venture into the unknown with joy and expectancy, finding ways to thrive in our world of constant change. As part of setting capacity development as a leadership development goal, we are inviting you to consciously pay attention to your capacity development as an adult.

When we are engaged in leadership, we want to take something to its fullness, achieving more and more of its potential. If you want to develop your capacity for leadership, you cannot be afraid of your capacity development or the capacity development of others.

Conscious Competency

One of the most powerful things you can say is ‘I don’t know’. Leaders need to be willing to admit when they individually or as an organization don’t know how to do something. The next step is to say ‘I can learn and I can get the answer,’ setting the stage to stretch and learn. They can then make choices to increase personal and group capacity to shift from not knowing how to do something to having the capacity to do it.

You may wish to develop an understanding of the learning model originally referred to as Four Stage for Learning Any New Skill, a theory attributed to Noel Burch of Gordon Training International in the 1970s and since then often referred to as the Conscious-Competence model. In quick summary, the theory says that learning new skills goes through four stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetent (I don’t know what I don’t know)
  2. Conscious Incompetent (I know what I don’t know and I want to learn)
  3. Conscious Competent (I know how, but I need to concentrate and practice this new skill)
  4. Unconscious Competent (I know it and feel this skill is ‘second nature’ to me)

Unconscious competence is considered the state of increased capacity that is desired for best performance and decision making.  While this is the desired state, it is important to remember that the stages of learning in this model all must be experienced in order to get there. Interested? Read more.

The Cost of Insufficient Capacity Development

There is a cost of insufficient capacity development. If we do not grow our capacity for what we can hold, we might be the ones interfering with our enterprise reaching its full potential. In other words, through insufficient personal capacity development, we ourselves might be the ones sabotaging what we want to achieve.

Often it is the formal leader who sabotages the enterprise without even being aware of it, due to insufficient capacity development. A formal leader may desire a corporate culture of high collaboration, innovation, creativity, and forward momentum as part of the corporate strategy. And yet, when the people engage in the collaboration, innovation, creativity, and the change that is necessary for the forward momentum, the formal leader might have the experience that things are ‘out of control’ and might not have the capacity to engage in leading through of a culture of leadership. When this fear arises, the formal leader tends towards mechanisms to exert greater control, not for the benefit of the enterprise reaching its goals, but because s/he does not have the capacity for leadership of such an interactive organization.

If you notice this within yourself, what capacities might you need to develop in order to lead an interactive organization in which collaboration, innovation, creativity, and forward momentum can truly be realized?

Developing Capacity

As you become aware of the capacities you wish to develop within yourself, it is important to set yourself up for the greatest likelihood of success in your capacity development.  We are offering you here a series of exercises you can do to strengthen the core capacities needed to fully thrive in your life. These simple exercises are about growing your 4 consciousnesses (or 4 intelligences): physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental.  When you practice them daily, you expand your personal capacity for coping with or thriving in life, making you more ready to grow the capacities you need to achieve your personal and professional goals.

Step 1: Physical Capacity – Get yourself moving. Choose something that suits you, such as dancing, yoga, Tai Chi or any of the martial arts and have a goal of getting yourself moving. At this point, this goal is enough. Participating in moving your body will build your capacity to access your physical consciousness (intelligence).

Step 2: Emotional Capacity – Begin making it a practice to pay attention to the emotions that you are experiencing. Name the emotion to yourself. Is it anger or is it resentment? Is it shame or is it guilt? Start fine tuning your awareness of what the emotion is. Do not judge it. Simply acknowledge the emotion you are experiencing. You will increase your capacity to tap into your emotional consciousness (intelligence).

Emotional capacity includes the ability to handle more than one emotion simultaneously such as anger and joy. As your emotional capacity increases, you reduce the likelihood of one emotion dominating your actions.

Step 3: Spiritual Capacity – Get outside into nature for at least fifteen minutes a day, or study something from nature such as a plant in your office for those fifteen minutes. This is a form of meditation that is fairly easy to do. As you increasingly connect with nature, your spiritual capacity will grow.

You will increasingly be able to tap into your spiritual consciousness (intelligence).

Step 4: Mental Capacity –Develop your curiosity and follow up on what you are curious about. This may take you into books, museums, conversations, and other processes of discovery.

By choosing one thing to be curious about every day and following it through, you will increasingly be able to tap into your mental consciousness (intelligence).

Strengthening Your Capacity

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying ‘We cannot solve our problems at the same level of thinking (consciousness) that we were in when we created the problems’. This is a call to capacity development.

Begin with the simple steps that we offer here to steadily grow your capacity. You will have more capacity and be able to support what you are working on in more expansive ways. As your capacity development increases, you will find you have increased ability to build, grow, achieve and take something that you want to accomplish to a more evolved configuration.

To keep yourself going with your capacity development, to encourage yourself, and to strengthen your capacity development, pause at those moments when you are setting out to learn something new. Get in touch with how you are feeling, acknowledge any fear. Remind yourself of times in your past when you have learned something new and expanded your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual capacity. You went through stages and then ended up with a great feeling of accomplishment when you succeeded with the new skill or with new knowledge. Get in touch with that feeling of elation and joy, and then step into the unknown again and again with this joyful expectancy of ‘I can do it’ and ‘I will value my expansion’.

You may find that the organization you are currently in values your capacity development and supports your personal expansion. You may find that you face the paradox that we spoke about and that your capacity development feels threatening to the organization and is not valued. Facing this paradox can also strengthen your capacity development as you make personal choices to keep going with your capacity development. Your power stops where your fear begins and so by staying on the forward edge of growing, you are developing your personal power.

About the Developing Leadership Series

We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.

In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.

In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles.  We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.

Rachel Bolton
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We specialize in developing leaders, teams, and organizations for the new leadership paradigm of "leading so people will lead". In this series, our Dalar team of Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership.
Rachel Bolton
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