Editor’s Note:This entry is part of the Fredrickson Thought Leaders in Learning series. For this guest blogging series, we’ve invited well-known experts in a variety of fields to address leadership-level learning and development professionals with their thoughts on topics of their choosing. Our hope is to prompt discussion around an expansive range of ideas and concepts.

I wanted to start this guest blog with a special thank you to Lola and her team at Fredrickson Communications for bringing together the learning community recently in a fabulous Learning Leader Summit. I am always impressed by the caliber of talent that we have in the Minneapolis area, and I enjoyed having the chance to connect with colleagues doing great work in their organizations.

Over the last 20 years my work as a professor, consultant, and executive has focused on leadership development and talent management. As such, I have done a lot of thinking and research into the increasingly critical question, “How do we accelerate the development of leaders?”

Since this is a short blog, I will fast forward to the punch line: I believe that you accelerate development by harnessing the developmental potential of on-the-job work experience. Now, if you are an adherent to the 70-20-10 concept, you may be tempted to stop reading here, because you already know that. After all, 70% of what leaders need to know to be effective they learn on the job, 20% they learn from relationships with others, and 10% they learn from formal sources. So what’s new?

Well, 70-20-10 is a great concept, but it’s not a great practice. The concept has made an important contribution by highlighting the fact that people learn a lot from experience, but it doesn’t provide any concrete guidance for practice. Namely, how exactly do you harness experience to accelerate a leader’s development?

The key to experience-based development is to foster a Learning Mindset

My work over the years has convinced me that while the best leaders have exceptional natural talents, they become great leaders because they approach their work experience with a Learning Mindset. The best leaders routinely:

  1. Seek great experiences
  2. Learn useful lessons from their experiences
  3. Apply the lessons they learn to tackle ever larger challenges

While people can’t change their natural talents, they can get onto an accelerated path to success by learning how to practice the Learning Mindset of an effective leader. To do so, they need a language and mental model that enables them to think differently about work experiences—to approach them not just with a Performance Mindset, but also with a Learning Mindset.

FrameBreakingTM Leadership Development: a new way of thinking about work experiences

The FrameBreaking Model, developed from research on the careers of 101 successful leaders, is a simple, but powerful, tool for jumpstarting the adoption of a Learning Mindset. It provides individuals and managers a simple structure for thinking about work experiences along two distinct dimensions: Intensity and Stretch.

  • Intensity: The extent to which work demands the most of you. When you are put into an assignment that pushes you to develop higher-level skills, you need to be fully engaged and in a high learning mode in order to succeed.
  • Stretch: The extent to which an experience pushes you outside your area of expertise, background, or preparation. When you are put into an assignment for which you have little prior experience or background, you need to learn different skills and perspectives.

Intensity and Stretch are two powerful development dimensions that are often mixed together in our thinking about experiences. Yet, these dimensions are actually distinct—one can have experiences that are high in Stretch without being high in Intensity, and vice versa—and they drive very different development outcomes.

Combining the two dimensions creates the FrameBreaking model with four types of experience: Delivering, Mastering, Broadening, and FrameBreaking. The most transformational experiences are referred to as “FrameBreaking” experiences; because they are high on both dimensions, the individual must question their assumptions about how to achieve success and undergo a degree of personal transformation. Yet, FrameBreaking experiences involve a higher degree of risk than other types of experience.

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The real challenge for leadership development professionals is not to find FrameBreaking experiences for all leaders, but to make better decisions about the kinds of experiences that leaders need, given their prior experience and personal aspirations. The model provides a new lens that can spark insight for individuals and help organizational decision-makers to ensure that people are getting the experiences (and learning) they need to be ready for the future.

About the author of this Thought Leaders in Learning entry: Mark Kizilos is the Assistant Dean for Executive Education at Carlson School of Management. For more information about the FrameBreaking Leadership Development approach, visit the FrameBreaking Leadership website. His new book, “FrameBreaking Leadership Development: Think differently about work expriences to achieve more, faster., is available from Amazon.com.

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