Last week I began a series of articles on TransformAction as a new leadership and coaching paradigm and the four prototypes that form the foundation for TransformActional work. In that article, I also wrote about the first of those prototypes, the Seer. This week we continue this series by looking at the second foundational prototype: the Explorer.
In today’s world, we face challenges and opportunities we’ve never met before. Effective leadership in these times often means walking into the unknown and trusting that, even though we don’t know where we are going, somehow we will find each next step at the right time. This is the realm of the Explorer.
An Explorer “learns forward.” Most of us have been conditioned to “learn backwards” – to relate all new learning to our past knowledge, understanding, and experience. If the new learning affirms or is congruent with what we already know, we accept it and work with it. However, if it contradicts our past experience or understanding, or if we don’t already have a context in which to put the new information, we are more likely to reject it. When we “learn backwards,” our interpretation and discovery in new learning is limited by the structures and contexts of our current knowledge.
“Learning forward,” on the other hand, means that we meet circumstances and situations on their own terms. We let life show itself to us, allowing ourselves to experience something fully before giving it meaning or interpretation. We live in an attitude of discovery, treating each experience and situation as something new with its own set of messages and opportunities. Understanding that the world is evolving rapidly, we recognize that the present and future may be operating on a different set of rules and conditions than what we have known in the past. Therefore, we accept the new learning as our new context or base. Some of our past knowledge and experience, beliefs and practices, will continue to serve us in this new context, yet some may no longer be relevant. We let go of what is no longer relevant and continue exploring forward, learning the new rules as we go. The Explorer understands that life is constantly evolving and transforming, and that our journey forward will be much easier if we are flexible and adaptable to the new conditions and realities we discover along the way.
Explorers approach life with an attitude of curiosity and a willingness to proceed even when we don’t know how. When we only do things that we know how to do and don’t move forward until we’ve answered every question, we will, in the end, stay in known territory. In other words, we will stay in our comfort zone. Staying in known territory leads to re-creating some version of the past over and over again.
Explorers accept not having answers and not knowing “how” before they move forward. When doing something for the first time or creating something new, they accept that they will not know how to do it ahead of time. They use their Seer and Explorer skills to discover each new step as it comes and create a plan as they go. Only after they have accomplished their goal or vision are they able to look back and recognize how they did it. TransformActional leadership and coaching is an ongoing process of discovery, learning and creating as we go. With today’s complex challenges, there are rarely blueprints or master plans to follow. Our job is to look deeply into the circumstance or situation (Seer) to recognize the potential waiting to unfold, explore the terrain, sense each next step as it comes, and follow through with appropriate action or response.
A big part of our job as Explorer leaders and coaches is to encourage a culture of discovery, creativity, and innovation with the people we serve – a culture that is inspired and informed by what we see and by what we discover together as we go – a culture grounded in learning forward. The best possible future will show itself to us if we are willing to explore with an open mind and heart. Seasoned Explorers trust that signs will appear to show them where to go next. They understand that the seeds of the future are planted in the present. As we develop ourselves as Seers and Explorers, we become more skilled at noticing the signals and following each next step.
As we develop the qualities of Seer and Explorer within ourselves, we naturally start to become Co-Creators. Next week I will write about this third foundational prototype of TransformActional leadership and coaching.
P.S. An Explorer has many tools for discovery. You can find many powerful Explorer tools in my latest book, Create A World That Works, particularly in Chapters 8 and 9. The book is also available in digital format for most e-readers.