Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast

The GAPS Grid: How to Accelerate Your Development as a Leader

February 23, 2024 Gerrit Pelzer, Martin Aldergard Episode 31
Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast
The GAPS Grid: How to Accelerate Your Development as a Leader
Show Notes Transcript

In today's  episode, we delve into the GAPS Grid, a dynamic tool designed to propel your leadership journey forward. Crafted by David B. Peterson, the GAPS Grid offers a structured approach to self-reflection, fostering clarity and alignment crucial for impactful leadership.*

At its core, the GAPS Grid is a straightforward 2-by-2 matrix. You can visualize it by clicking here: The 'G' quadrant represents Goals & Values, prompting introspection into what truly matters in your life. We explore reflection questions to unearth your core values and aspirations, emphasising the importance of documenting these insights for ongoing growth. [2:56]

Next, we explore the 'A' quadrant—Abilities—focusing on identifying and leveraging your strengths and capabilities. We discuss the significance of assessing whether your abilities align with your goals, so that you can choose the critical skills to develop for success. [10:30]

Moving to the 'P' quadrant—Perception—we examine how to identify how others perceive you and the critical role perception management plays in leadership success. Understanding and actively managing these perceptions is essential for navigating professional relationships effectively. [14:55]

In the 'S' quadrant—Success Factors—we delve into organisational goals and values, highlighting two critical components. [21:00] Firstly, we discuss the pivotal link between perception and success factors for career advancement. Do decision-makers perceive you as possessing the qualities necessary for higher-level roles? This perception greatly influences opportunities for progression within the organisation.

Secondly, we explore the vital connection between goals & values and success factors for intrinsic motivation. When your personal aspirations align with your organisation’s goals and values, you will find purpose and fulfilment in your work. Conversely, misalignment can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction, turning daily tasks into mere obligations rather than fulfilling contributions to a meaningful cause.

Join us as we unravel the interconnectedness of Goals & Values, Abilities, Perception, and Success Factors, empowering you to navigate the complexities of leadership with clarity and purpose.

*see also: Peterson, D.B. (2006). People Are Complex and the World Is Messy: A Behaviour-Based Approach to Executive Coaching. In: D.R. Stober and A.M. Grant, eds., Evidence Based Coaching Handbook. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, pp.51–76. The chapter is currently also available online here.

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Gerrit Pelzer
Martin Aldergård


Second Crack – The Leadership Podcast (Episode 31)

This transcript is AI-generated and may contain typos and errors.

[00:11] Gerrit: Welcome, dear listeners, to a very special milestone edition of Second Crack -The Leadership Podcast. Martin, can you believe it, we are marking now two years where we had conversations where we explored everyday leadership dilemmas and paradoxes. So happy birthday!

[00:29] Martin: Yeah, Gerrit, two years, and it has been a very rewarding journey. So, thank you so much to you for being a great travel companion, And of course, we must also say thank you to our dear listeners for joining us on the journey. I mean, without your support, it would have been very tough to keep going.

[00:50] Gerrit: Yes, and Martin, thank you to you as well. I pick up the metaphor of the travel companion. And for our listeners, we have a special birthday gift today. We introduce the GAPS grid, which is an amazing tool that can truly accelerate your leadership development. And The GAPS grid looks very simple at first sight, but it is really a very powerful tool which I use in almost all my executive coaching engagements because it helps people add some structure to their development. It can also help structure the process of self-reflection that we mention so many times.

[01:35] Martin: And self-reflection is part of the core that we always speak about. But Gerrit, I also think the GAPS grid is really good for creating clarity, for creating alignment. When I'm so busy every day as a leader, and I really want to create more impact, how can I figure out where I should put my time, my focus, my energy?

[02:00] Gerrit: That's right, so it's not only about the longer-term development that I typically work with my clients. It can really help you also solve immediate problems. And what we want to do here is to give full credit to the wonderful David Peterson, who unfortunately passed away last year. David is the brain behind the GAPS grid, and he wrote a wonderful chapter called "People are Complex and the World is Messy", which is part of the "Evidence Based Coaching Handbook”. And we will make sure to put a link to this chapter into the session notes.

[02:40] Martin: Yeah. Because the GAPS grid is so useful, so it's good to go back and check it out by yourself. Now let's dive right into it. How does the GAPS grid look like? Grid, that sounds like a matrix, right?

[02:56] Gerrit: and as consultant, Martin, you are very good at drawing simple two by two matrices. And for you as our listener, maybe if you have a sheet of paper or a tablet with you, you can scribble along with us. Otherwise, you might just want to Google "GAPS", G A P S, and you will probably find a picture of it.

[03:17] So this two-by-two matrix results then in naturally four quadrants. And where we typically start is in the upper right quadrant with the G in GAPS, and that stands for "Goals and Values". So, goals and values, that is all about what matters to you. And the longer I coach, the more I focus on the values, less on specific goals.

[03:51] Because when people talk about goals and often in the corporate context, S.M.A.R.T. Goals, right? These goals are usually based on the belief that happiness is the result of certain achievements of attaining certain goals. And I believe that is fundamentally wrong. On the contrary when I hear especially about material goals, you know, by, by the year I don't know which year we should choose.

[04:24] I want to have that amount of money in the bank account. I want to. A fantastic house, a Ferrari in front of the door or anything that is related to status. I want to be a CEO mainly because I want to have the title on the business card. Then, what often happens is people run after these goals while they are running

[04:48] they are extremely unhappy. And let’s say then there are still a lot of people who never achieve this goal, these goals, so they will be unhappy for the rest of their lives. And those few who achieve these goals, they then suddenly realize that it's actually not these material things that give them genuine happiness.

[05:12] Martin: Hmm. And I think this is where we need to also differentiate if I use the GAPS grid for my long-term development, it's really, really important then to not focus so much on the specific goals, but more on the values. But if I use the GAPS grid, of course, for a more short-term reflection, then the goals obviously become much more important. So I think it has a lot to do with the time horizon. that I use when I'm doing my self-reflection.

[05:45] Gerrit: That is true. And also, a goal can also be, for instance, how or who do I want to be? I want to be a great coach. I want to be a wonderful husband, father, etc. Right? So, it does not always have to be this measurable goal or something that is easy to quantify. So, yeah, in the end it comes down to what really matters.

[06:14] What matters to you? And since we talk a lot about reflection questions, the GAPS grid is full of wonderful reflection questions. So, for instance, what really gives you a meaningful and fulfilling life? What are the core values in your life? For instance, those values that make you judge things as right or wrong, good or bad? Or, other questions can be then related to the outside world. What or who inspires you? What motivates you? What excites you? And also, a wonderful question is when people are sometimes not so clear is: What were times in your life when you were so engaged in an activity that made you forget about time?

[07:06] It made you forget to eat or what were some activities when you were looking forward to them, you couldn't sleep, or you couldn't wait to get started the next day.

[07:19] Martin: Yeah, these, these are these questions that we work with a lot, both in coaching and in leadership development, right? And figuring out what are the most important things is a good way to identify core values.

[07:36] Gerrit: Yeah.

[07:36] Martin: And I think this is something that we need to reflect on, but you are also very strong in your opinion, that we should actually sit down and write this down. Why is the writing so important?

[07:53] Gerrit: Yeah, first of all, I mean, these are really fundamental questions, right? It's really critical for everybody's life. However, I often work with mature leaders. They may be in their 40s or even in their 50s, and they never really sat down and thought about this. I mean, they have a certain sense, of course, about what matters in their lives.

[08:19] But then there is this old saying "don't just think it, ink it". So, first of all, when you really write down these, let's say, values or goals, it deepens the thinking process. Also, the act of writing is not a one-time activity. So, you may start today, but you probably want to revisit the GAPS grid to really complete it because there is some deeper thinking involved.

[08:53] Maybe you start your initial value list, but then over time you go back and think about, well what, what are really my own values versus those that I have adopted maybe from my parents, the family that I grew up with, the culture in which I grew up. And we may find out that certain values are something that maybe, has been imposed on me.

[09:17] But when I think about it, for me, it's, it's really not that important, right? And then further down the road, it can also help you to prioritize values. You may come across something that is conflicting. So it's, it's a bit like a living list that you can revisit and revise.

[09:40] Martin: Yeah, and I think this is also an important reminder about the use of the GAPS grid. it's some document that I can keep on my desktop or in the drawer of my working desk, right? And I come back and revisit, and this is how I learn more about myself as well.

[09:57] Gerrit: Yep.

[09:59] Martin: And I sort of say document steps, my conclusions, and then I go back another six months or a quarter of a year later, and I change it based on what I have realized about myself.

[10:10] Gerrit: And that is, that is also so wonderful because you will notice that over time, some things will change, whereas others may remain constant throughout your whole life. It's a very interesting experience to make.

[10:25] Okay. Gerrit, should we move to the A in GAPS?

[10:30] We should. So, the A in GAPS stands for "Abilities". So, we move from the upper right quadrant, the goals and values, we move to the upper left quadrant. And, as the name indicates, abilities is all about your strengths, what you are good at. And it may sound a bit trivial, but in reality, when you ask people on the spot, "What are your strengths?"

[10:59] They probably cannot give you a complete list of their strengths unless they're currently applying for a job. And I can give you a real-life example: I was once in a situation myself where I questioned whether I was still in the right job or in the right company. And that was for me the first time in a while where I thought, well, What are actually my strengths, my skills and capabilities that another employer would value?

[11:29] And so indeed, I then sat down and reviewed what I've done, what I think I'm good at. And this is then critically important also because many people are not aware of strengths that come naturally to them. They may feel that something is not a big thing because it's so easy for them. However, oftentimes later then they suddenly realize other people admire them for the skill because for these other people it's so incredibly hard.

[12:05] And Again, I think this is so important because these natural strengths, these are often the strengths that can set people apart and be the main contributor to a person's success.

[12:19] Martin: Yeah, Gerrit, now if we combine the G and A What we write in those two quadrants, I think then we can start to really learn interesting things about ourselves.

[12:33] Gerrit: Yeah, because we see now that the GAPS grid goes beyond four isolated quadrants. 

[12:40] Martin: And really, if we then look at these two, the G and the A, what are the questions that we can ask ourselves? 

[12:50] Gerrit: We can ask a very simple question. So, moving from the left, "abilities", to the right, "goals and values", we can ask, do you have actually the abilities to Achieve your goals or to live according to what matters to you. Because, just because something is important for you doesn't automatically mean that you are good at it.

[13:17] So if I pick up the examples I had before from a personal life, let's say you want to be a great husband and father, or wife and mother. You lack the capacity to express love, right? Or I want to be the best coach I can possibly be, but I struggle being truly present for my client during a coaching session, right?

[13:41] Or then related to the leadership development, maybe you want to take the higher-level role in your organization, but your strategic thinking or seeing the bigger picture does not come naturally to you. So, literally, the GAPS can show you gaps between your goals and your abilities, and then you can see, you can look at it from two perspectives.

[14:06] One is, you can see directly what kind of abilities or skills you need to develop, but sometimes you may also realize that it's just better to adjust your goals, right, if it's, for instance, too difficult for you to develop certain skills.

[14:26] Martin: And I think this is, to me, when I start to use the GAPS grid, really powerful for myself, I am looking at my strength and then I go to my goals and look at my priorities, my ambitions. What do I really want to pick up? And what should I try to move away from in term of priorities or goals that sometime are imposed by others? Now should we move to the, to the P, the lower left quadrant?

[14:57] Gerrit: Yes, the P in GAPS stands for " Perception". So, the top row is all about how you see yourself, and now very importantly, we add the view of others. And perception is obviously how other people see you. And what I always find fascinating also in my coaching is how different the actual abilities can be from what other people are saying.

[15:29] And at the same time, it's absolutely mission- critical to understand how other people see you. Just, just simply if you want to have the impact that you desire. So how can you get insights into how other people see you? There is obviously You can just go and ask other people. You can decide to conduct a formal 360-degree feedback which will give you a very comprehensive view.

[15:59] But there are also other sources to get to this perception part. For instance, you could consider the last performance review that you got at work. What generally, what are generally your friends, family members, or colleagues, what do they say about you? Maybe what have you received recognition for in the past?

[16:23] So, you can have all kinds of different sources as input for that.

[16:29] Martin: And I think for me, the gaps, grids, GAPS grid here helps a lot to, if I'm going out and seeking feedback from others. I now have a little bit more structured way of what I would be looking for, either to get some of my abilities verified, or also ask beyond what I can see myself, are there other things that I haven't noticed? So by writing this down, I can also be more precise and more structured when I'm asking for feedback. And

[17:07] Gerrit: is like you said on one hand, a confirmation of what you're already seeing, but then also discovering blind spots where other people don't see what you consider as a strength. Or the other way around, as I said earlier, there are many strengths that come naturally to us, and we don't see them as strengths, and then this is one way of discovering these hidden strengths.

[17:32] Martin: And now we're already talking about comparing the upper left quadrant, my own abilities, how I view them, and the lower left, the perception of others. When we compare these two quadrants, and we can look at it from both ways to identify different blind spots there.

[17:54] Gerrit: Yes, yes, indeed. And it comes back to the importance of perception management as well. So, in fact, most of my coachings, I can safely say, have a component of perception management. So across all areas of life, whether that's a typical corporate job also in personal life, successful people are aware of how other people see them.

[18:27] And then they are great at managing these perceptions, or sometimes it's also called reputation management, and I can't emphasize enough that this is not about making up big stories or go out into the world and say, hey, look, everybody, how great I am. It's simply about making sure that you are seen by others in the way you really are.

[18:52] Or maybe you could also say in the way you want to be seen. And I think a former boss of mine summed it up so nicely: "Do good things, do good work and talk about it." 

[19:07] Martin: And I think here authenticity is again the key point. The GAPS grid helps me to put in a consistent story about myself because I can think through the different parts together and put it down in words, so it helps me to also now communicate a consistent message about what matters to me, what are my strengths, and I understand how others then see me. And I can become much more authentic and transparent about myself and my leadership.

[19:44] Gerrit: Yeah. Martin, this is such a wonderful example because it's also about when we say what is important for you, how do you actually express it? How can you make sure that other people see that? How do you demonstrate what, what matters to you? And what I find personally very sad, I work with many great people who do a wonderful job, like almost behind closed doors.

[20:13] They, you spoke about personality, their personality is, I want to be humble, right? So, they hope that the quality work they're doing speaks for itself, but most of the time this is not what happens. You need to find ways of letting other people know about it. If, if you want to, for instance move ahead in your organization, right?

[20:41] Martin: But it also links with what we talked with Jim Massey, a number of episodes ago in 2023, about the Can-Care-Do model. If you want to make an impact as a leader, people must trust you and they must trust your abilities. Now, moving then to the last quadrant, the lower right quadrant, S. 

[21:10] Gerrit: That's the Success Factors and it links wonderful to what you just said, the trust in the ability. So if you remember the top right quadrant, "goals and values", is what matters to you, and then moving down to the success factors is essentially what matters to others, what matters in the organization. So, in a corporate context, this is, for instance, again, what your boss or other stakeholders expect from you and this can be either in your current role or if you want to get a promotion, it can be your future role.

[21:51] And we get a hint for these values in an organization, what matters to the organization, when we, for instance, look at, what behavior gets rewarded in your organization? Who gets a promotion and why? And on the other hand, what behavior eventually gets punished?

[22:14] Martin: Yeah. And, and here, of course, the corporate culture, can be both the, the values that is displayed in the lobby or in the elevator, but of course, the hidden culture, the way that work is done, that is the important thing to surface here.

[22:34] Gerrit: I would say it's the hidden values, right? The culture is what I think what you can see expressed in terms of "that's how we do things around here". But the values, as you said so nicely, that we find in every company's lobby is not necessarily what we then see in daily life. And that also has another practical aspect. So besides the hidden values, there can also be hidden expectations that you don't find in your job description. 

[23:09] This is then also where I think we find the nice link now between the perception on the bottom left, to the success factors on the bottom right. So, one of the best ways to illustrate this for me is when people are looking for a promotion. Because the decision whether you or somebody else gets the job, does not simply on the great quality of your work, or whether you are objectively a good fit for the job. It depends on whether the decision makers in your organization have the confidence, that you have what it takes to be successful in, for instance, the higher level role. And this, you spoke about the trust, or the confidence in a person's abilities, that depends 100 percent on the perception, not your actual abilities.

[24:11] Martin: Now, if we start into linking together the S and the P, the right side of this matrix, we also find interesting conclusions linked with, for instance, motivation.

[24:25] Gerrit: Yeah, and I find this so interesting. So, we moved counterclockwise from the upper right quadrant and then people often think, Oh, once we have linked the perception with the success factors, we're done. But there is this other link between. your personal values and the organizational values.

[24:46] And I think that is another element that that makes this simple looking GAPS grid so powerful because when your goals and values are aligned with those of your organization, then you never have to ask yourself, ah, how do I motivate myself today? You are intrinsically motivated because what you do day in and day out contributes to living a fulfilling life.

[25:19] On the other side, however When you realize that there's little alignment between what matters to you and what you actually do in your daily work, this, this can be a very difficult situation, right? Because your job is nothing more than a job and eventually doing it every day will be a daily grind.

[25:43] And, well, then you have various options, right? Of course, if you find there is Too much of a mismatch, one way is to leave the job, find something else, but eventually people can also find meaning outside of their work, hobbies, initiatives, initiatives, or Martin, I actually feel reminded of a workshop we once did with a team where I said, well How can you actively bring more of what's important to you into your daily work?

[26:18] Martin: And I think this is to me also what is really interesting, how can I create more impact as a leader by bringing more of myself into daily work? The GAPS grid is not 

[26:31] four static quadrants, but they interact with each other. And as a leader, I can drive this in the direction that I want. And there's so much opportunities opening up when I get this on paper, and I can clearly see this in front of me. To me, the clarity that it helps me to create about myself, where I am, where I want to

[26:57] Gerrit: Yes.

[26:58] Martin: It's tremendous.We have gone through the four quadrants now, and I think it's time to wrap-up.

[27:05] Gerrit: Yeah, and what you just said, like, we're almost like closing now the circle, coming back to the beginning. Our episodes are always about self-reflection, and we had a bunch of powerful reflection questions in our episode today. And I think it's also a wonderful tool when people think, yeah, I see the value of self-reflection, but I don't really know how to do it. So, the GAPS grid is this tool that helps you add structure, get started with it, and I'm sure people when they do it, they will have inevitably great insights.

[27:42] Martin: Hmm. The bottom line to me, the GAPS grid really helps you become more impactful as a leader.

[27:52] Gerrit: I think that is a wonderful conclusion, Martin. Nothing more to add. So, maybe just as the final words, if you as our listener like what we do, please subscribe to Second Crack on your favorite podcast platform. And it would be also wonderful if you could recommend our podcast to a friend. And of course, we would love it if you could leave a positive comment or rating.

[28:17] More insights about our work, you can visit our website at secondcrackleadership. com. That's all in one word. And we are also curious to receive your feedback, your questions and comments. So, feel free to reach out to us at hello at secondcrackleadership. com.

Bye for now.