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How to test your frontier of competence

By May 22, 2019 No Comments

“It’s your job to learn and my job to give you the opportunity to learn.” Ron Heifetz

My mind was officially blown last week with the most extraordinary learning experience.

I spent the week at Harvard Kennedy School studying The Art & Practice of Leadership under the incredible direction of Ron Heifetz.  and the faculty team.  With 60 other cohorts from 20 countries across the planet this truly was an extraordinary experience.

From day one, Ron gave us his ‘blessing of discomfort’ . He committed to taking us to our ‘frontier of competence’.  He offered us permission to be confused, creating a safe space to explore, be curious and to learn.

And this got me thinking about how a life of continuous learning and exploration of what could be is essential to growth. But here’s the thing – no one is going to give you permission to keep learning, to face your own frontier of competence.

It’s up to you to invest in you.

It’s up to you to choose to move from your secure space of competence and instead enter the murky world of uncertainty and confusion – a space of  stretching, testing and developing your own level of competence; of pushing your own frontier.  I’m happy to admit that last week I spent a  long time wading through my own murky world of incompetence. It was painful at times as I pushed through the discoveries I was making intellectually and emotionally.

But most people don’t invest in developing their own mastery because the murky world of confusion is scary.

They live in a life of stasis and work avoidance – of thinking they know all they need to know. They leave school, complete their apprenticeship, get their degree and then stop. The continuous learning piece? Well, quite simply it’s lost in a sea of excuses – too hard, no time, where to start, what’s the point! This attitude is quite frankly dangerous.

The world is moving at an incredible speed making current knowledge obsolete at a faster rate of knots.  

Adaptability, complexity of challenges and a need to connect with the right people to do the right work is critical in driving change –  and if we don’t at least try and keep up, if we don’t attempt to remain relevant and current – well then we, individually, become defunct and tossed out with the ‘maybe I’ll recycle that later’ pile.

It’s up to you to surround yourself with the right teachers – those individuals that support you, building your mastery and knowledge so that you can become better every single day. This is essential to your success. Successful people know this – they have an insatiable desire and commitment to learning more and always.

Ultimately teachers want to help us become better – they want to give us the opportunity to learn.  As Ron said, “It’s your job to learn and my job to give you the opportunity to learn.”

They will push and stretch thinking, challenge ideas, encourage momentum, action and resilience because they know that on the other side of learning mastery, flowing with the art of constant curiosity and wearing a new ‘what if’ lens lies opportunity for more growth, more achievement, more success.

On the other side of your discomfort exists the “frontier of competence”.

And to this frontier, Ron and the faculty team took us all last week – many of us shouting and screaming along the way and equally celebrating with jubilant high fives at the end of the Program.

Every single one of us was stretched with new concepts, framework and thinking.  

We were challenged to question and diagnose each other’s business and leadership problems.

We were placed in situations of total discomfort and disequilibrium which created, by virtue, a simmering pot of emotions, experiences, personal opinions, values and differences.  

And through all of this, our individual frontiers of competence were shifted – we connected, we shared, we developed a deeper understanding and awareness around the practice of leadership as well as compassion for ourselves and each other. New skills, capabilities and thinking that will be incorporated into our work so we can serve our teams and clients better. And so that we, as individuals, are practising the art of leadership every day.

And the added and unexpected bonus?  

I have gained new friends, colleagues and confidantes around the world through this shared experience – friendships that will last far longer than the 10 days we were at Harvard.

Until next time.

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