Leading Blog


The Critical Few: Working with Your Culture to Change It

The Critical Few

CULTURE is hard to change. And we’re usually fighting against it. But what if we used the culture to change it? What if by focusing on a few critical elements we could work with our culture instead of against it?

In the Global Culture Survey 2018 by The Katzenbach Center, a whopping 80% of respondents say their organization’s culture must evolve in the next five years for their company to succeed, grow, and retain the best people. I think we’re all there, so the challenge is how to make that happen.

In The Critical Few, the authors—Jon Katzenbach, Gretchen Anderson, and James Thomas—describe organizational culture as “a collection of deeply held attitudes, entrenched habits, repeated behaviors, latent emotions, and collective perceptions of the world. Culture is the shared set of assumptions we all bring when we work together—our unspoken expectations of one another.” It’s easy to underestimate the powerful force exerted by the culture when trying to change it.

Instead of issuing top-down, comprehensive, urgent, cultural change directives, you’ll get further faster with real transformation, if you can get the “important emotional forces in your current culture working with you. You identify and make use of what already exists. Chances are, there are some reservoirs of genuine positive emotional energy lurking somewhere within your current cultural situation that can be harnessed if brought to light.” The idea then is to align how people behave and feel—those cultural elements that motivate your workforce—with your goals and what is necessary to make the company successful.

But you need to keep it simple. The tendency is to include too much—too comprehensive.
Complexity is distracting; comprehensiveness is wasted energy. You need crystal-clear simplicity and a small group of elements that will carry everyone forward together. You need to unify your organization’s people around a common, clear cultural movement, driven by a core of keystone behaviors and positive emotions.

It’s easy to create a long list of very important and necessary keystone actions that are vital to building a better culture. But if you can’t narrow it down to three or four, “you’ll be overwhelmed when you start to work with them, and so will everyone else in the organization.”

So we need to focus on three specific elements they call the critical few to have the most success: existing cultural traits, keystone behaviors, and authentic or critical informal leaders. Here’s how they describe each:

Existing Cultural Traits
A set of shared characteristics that represent the “family resemblance” of your entire enterprise—the qualities that transcend subcultures and are at the heart of the shred assumptions people bring to work and their emotional connection to what they do.

Traits are not values. They reflect how things are actually done. When we understand what core qualities make up the “family resemblance,” we can than encourage the most the best and useful aspects of those qualities to bring about the change in culture.

The traits you choose to focus on should “reflect your company’s essential nature, resonate across the enterprise, trigger a positive emotional response, and support your company’s cause.”
Emotional energy is released as traits (and behaviors) are defined because traits, when well-articulated, reinforce and remind people within an organization of their sense of belonging to something larger than themselves.

Keystone Behaviors
A few carefully identified things that some people do, day after day, that would lead your company to succeed if they were replicated at greater scale.

Culture change is slow process, but it begins with specific changes in behavior. As Richard Pascale wrote, “People are much more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking than to think their way into a new way of acting.”
You are looking for behaviors that, when encouraged, will move your organization in the direction of your stated aspirations and your strategic intent, all while aligning to those fundamental traits of who you are as a company.

An effective behavior for your company should: Harness existing sources of pride or emotional energy to drive intrinsic motivation toward your aspirations; Address barriers that get in the way of realizing your aspirations; and Encourage the replication of actions that enable your goals.

Authentic Informal Leaders
A few people, or at least a reasonably small percentage of your company’s people, who stand out because they have a high degree of “emotional intuition” or social connectedness.

Authentic Informal Leaders (AILs) are people who are already demonstrating the kinds of behavior you want to encourage. And they are not necessarily your high-flyers. These are the people too that can give you a better understanding to how things really work in your organization. Work with them from the beginning.

They note thought that AILs may be thought of as skeptics, resistors, and even “mouthy.” Their value is that they “aren’t just there to channel a message—they are there to translate it if they believe in it and also to call foul if they do not and push the leadership to try harder! Their talent for sensing and responding to what others think and feel means that they will choose a way of communicating key ideas that will strike a chord at all levels of the organization.”
You can’t point your finger and mandate behavior change. But you can intervene to create the conditions that make the right behaviors emerge. You’re looking to surround your people with a coherent system of “enablers,” some formal and some informal, that all, taken together, suggest a new path.

Too often we try to implement changes as an initiative against something when we would be better off working with the prevailing culture to shape something better. These initiatives are usually communication-led transformation rather than a true culture-led, behavior-led, transformation. Communications-led transformations rarely produce a lasting effect on how we feel about what we do and therefore actually change what we do. Lasting cultural changes must have an emotional commitment.

You can find more information on this concept on the Strategy& website.

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Culture Engine Talent Magnet

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:34 PM
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Lessons from Washington & Lincoln

Lessons from Washington and Lincoln

PRESIDENTS DAY was created in 1968 when George Washington’s birthday (February 22) was moved to the third Monday of February as part of the Uniform Holidays Bill. Today it is thought of as a day to remember all U.S. presidents but with a focus on the lives of Washington and Lincoln who was also born in February (12th).

Both of these leaders possessed a great deal of self-awareness. Washington’s success, in part, came from knowing his weaknesses and controlling them. Lincoln listened. Lincoln took the time to cultivate personal relationships with his subordinates so he could learn from them. Lincoln accepted criticism, but always, he kept a good sense of humor. He chose not to brood over any criticism.

No one is a born leader. Their leadership development began early in life—as it should. Great leaders are revealed in extraordinary circumstances, but they are made long before.

By age sixteen, Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn, give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem.

These leaders knew who they were and their times. And they lead. Their lives are an example for each of us, and if we are wise, we can use them to inform our own leadership in any context. When the world changes, leaders change the world. Explore the links below to learn more.

Washington Control Washington Early Lead

Rules Of Civility Think Things Through

Endure Unjust Criticism Lincoln Listen

Lincoln Humor Lincoln Invest

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:57 PM
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Thomas Jefferson's Ten Rules to Live By

Weekend Supplement

Thomas Jefferson was skilled in many fields. In December 1962, John F. Kennedy entertained a group of Nobel prize winners in the White House and welcomed them as the most distinguished gathering of intellects to dine in the Executive Mansion “with the possible exception of when Mr. Jefferson dined here alone.”

Jefferson cared for people and always offered advice when asked. A year before his death, he was asked by a father to give some counsel to his young son, Thomas Jefferson Smith. He responded with a letter that began:
Monticello Feb. 21. 1825.
Th: Jefferson to Th: Jefferson Smith.

This letter will, to you be as one from the dead, the writer will be in the grave before you can weigh it’s counsels. your affectionate and excellent father has requested that I would address to you something which might possibly have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run, and I too, as a namesake, feel an interest in that course. few words will be necessary with good dispositions on your part. adore God. reverence and cherish your parents. love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. be just. be true. murmur not at the ways of Providence. so shall the life into which you have entered be the Portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss. and if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. farewell.

The letter concluded with ten rules to live by Jefferson titled A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life:
  1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.
  2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy a what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
  5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
  7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!
  9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
  10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

Jefferson Decalogue

The complete letter can be found on the National Archives website.

leadership blog

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:40 PM
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Finding Your Flywheel

Finding Your Flywheel

GREATNESS NEVER HAPPENS in one fell swoop—no single action. It is the result of a series of correct actions that build on each other. Jim Collins likens it to turning a giant, heavy flywheel. In Turning the Flywheel, he describes the process:
Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward. You keep pushing, and with persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You don’t stop. You keep pushing. The flywheel moves a bit faster. Two turns … then four … then eight … the flywheel builds momentum … sixteen … thirty-two … moving faster … a thousand … ten thousand … a hundred thousand. Then at some point breakthrough! The flywheel flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum.

The flywheel concept was first introduced in the bestselling Good to Great. In Turning the Flywheel, Collins shares practical insights and clarity about the process. You can see it at work in successful organizations, but the trick is finding your flywheel. While it your flywheel may be similar to another organization’s flywheel, “what matters most is how well you understand your flywheel and how well you execute on each component over a long series of iterations.” Collins lists seven essential steps to finding and capturing your flywheel.

Collins explains the flywheels of Amazon, Vanguard, Intel, Giro Sport Design and others. Giro’s flywheel is illustrated below. As with all proper flywheels, each step or action in sequence is the almost inevitable consequence of executing the step before it. So, in the case of Giro, by creating a great bike helmet that elite athletes want to wear, it naturally inspires weekend warriors to wear it, which in turn attracts mainstream customers, which builds brand power and allows you the resources to invent more great products. And the flywheel turns faster and with more power.

Giro Flywheel

If you understand your flywheel’s underlying architecture as distinct from a single line of business or arena of activity, you can evolve, expand, or extend your flywheel in response to changes in your environment. That is to say the underlying logic of your flywheel—what your organization is doing. If you understand that, you can apply it to other areas.

Some Rules
The very nature of a flywheel—that it depends upon getting the sequence right and that every component depends on all the other components—means that you simply cannot falter on any primary component and sustain momentum.

To sustain and renew the flywheel you need to embrace the Genius of the AND (as presented in Built to Last).

When you reach a hundred turns on a flywheel, go for a thousand turns, then ten thousand, then a million, then ten million, and keep going until (and unless) you make a conscious decision to abandon that flywheel. Exit definitively or renew obsessively, but never—ever—neglect your flywheel.

Collins also makes it clear that a flywheel operates within a context—a framework of principles that great organizations adhere to. The framework has four stages:

Stage 1: Disciplined People
Stage 2: Disciplined Thought
Stage 3: Disciplined Action
Stage 4: Building to Last

The flywheel principle operates at the pivot point from Disciplined Thought into Disciplined Action. Collins explains each stage in detail and the principles that apply to each like Level 5 Leadership, the Hedgehog Concept, 20 Mile March, and Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs. But I found this observation interesting:
An overarching theme across our research findings is the role of discipline in separating the great from the mediocre. The only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult. When you have a disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls. When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you create a powerful mixture that correlates with great performance.

Every entrepreneur should read this because it organizes your decisions around a principle that compounds your efforts. Turning the Flywheel is a short but necessary read to help you understand your business and what can and will make it successful. Executing well on a well thought out flywheel will give you years—even decades—of success.

More importantly, if leaders communicate their organization’s unique flywheel so that everyone at every level understands it, it will bring clarity and purpose to each individual’s work. It provides tangible evidence as to their part in the organization’s success.

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Books By Jim Collins Great by Choice

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:12 AM
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Creating the Conversations That Help Them Grow

Help Them Grow

FINDING good employees is not enough. Developing them is critical to keeping them.

Everyone has options. If you are not growing and leading your employees, they will look elsewhere.

“Success today,” say Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, “rests upon finding ways to continuously expand everyone’s capacity, engagement, and ability to contribute to the organization.”

While many leaders may feel they don’t have time for career development, it’s not as complicated as we often make it out to be. “Career development is nothing more than helping others grow”—one conversation at a time.

“Quality career development boils down to quality conversations”—frequent, short conversations that occur within the natural flow of work. It is based on good questions, not in having all of the answers.
Go ahead and courageously ask the challenging questions and even end the conversation with a real tough or thought-provoking one that the employee can contemplate for a while. Closure is overrated. Unfinished business … that’s what will cause employees to continue to ponder and will ultimately spark action and feed progress.

They suggest that we “reframe career development in such a way that responsibility rests squarely with the employee and that our role is more about prompting, guiding, reflecting, exploring ideas, activating enthusiasm, and driving action.”

Their framework for career development is organized around three types of conversations:

Hindsight Conversations

“Hindsight conversations are the foundation of career development.” These conversations are meant to help develop self-awareness—where they have been, what they’ve done, and who they are. This has two parts: self-perception and other-perception—how others perceive them. Encourage employees to get feedback from those they work with. “Helping people look back and inward also provides a reservoir of information that allows employees to move forward and toward their career goals in intentional ways that will produce satisfying results.”

Foresight Conversations

What an employee learns about themselves in hindsight needs to be applied in the context of what is going on around them and the implications of all of the changes they see happening. “When you help your employees develop the ability to scan the environment, anticipate trends, and spot opportunities, you provide a constructive context for career development.” Harness the power of your crowd. Get them asking questions like, what are you seeing and what might these things mean to our industry, our organization, and your career? “Encouraging employees to interact directly with the environment is just an exercise until you debrief their experiences and encourage reflection.” It’ll turn employees into business partners.

Insight Conversations

These conversations leverage what your employee learns from the convergence of the insight and foresight conversations. Here you guide them into practical steps they can take to be where they want to be. “Onward and upward has been replaced by forward and toward.” Today, it’s not about moving up the ladder but moving to the place you want to be. Kaye and Giulioni suggest that we learn to help them grow in place. This requires a shift in thinking. “The challenge of growing in place involves stripping titles from our thinking and instead focusing on what the employee needs to experience, know, learn, and be able to do.”

Reframe the conversation to be about experiences, not position. It creates unseen possibilities and allows them to grow where they are.

Develop a Career Development Culture

Ultimately what you want to create is a career development culture that supports and values the employee. Cultures that actively support career development and enjoy its constructive byproducts share some fundamental characteristics or cultural markers. They tend to be:
  • Information-Rich – Information flows freely. To drive their own development, employees need information about performance, perceptions, and possibilities.
  • Curious – A genuine inquisitiveness with a focus on inquisitiveness, questions, the inclusion of diverse points of view, and exploration of ideas.
  • Patient (with the development process) – Growth takes time. The hallmarks of this culture are flexibility, commitment, and consistency.
  • Results-Oriented – Leadership clarity about the what can allow for more creativity and flexibility around the how creating countless vehicles for growth.
  • Blurry Around Boundaries – Collaboration. A culture that brings a spirit of generosity to development, sharing resources and even being willing to lose good talent as a way to support their development.

We have conversations about the work anyway, so why not make it a teachable moment. “A few minutes of conversation can help others slow down enough to reflect, bring deep insights to the surface, verbalize important messages, and consider how to leverage their expanding skills and knowledge base.”

If you don’t think you have the time to incorporate this vital task in what you do, this book is for you. Kaye and Giulioni offer templates, guidelines, and sample conversations and questions that you can adapt to your own situation. With their approach, career development stays fresh because each employee’s career plan is unique and done in real-time.

Career development should flow naturally out of a leader’s genuine concern for others. The framework work provided in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go provides a way of thinking to make that process happen naturally and effectively and at the most appropriate times.

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Keeping People Front and Center Netflix Patty McCord

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:04 AM
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Henry Mintzberg’s Bedtime Stories for Managers

Mintzberg’s Bedtime Stories for Managers

MINTZBERG’S 20th book, Bedtime Stories for Managers, is a thought-provoking page-turner. (In that sense I’m not sure it’s good to read just before drifting off.) The stories—a collection or repurposed blog posts—are meant to be pondered.

The theme running through most is that managers/leaders need to get out from behind their desks and see the world from the perspective of their employees and customers. To this end, he dedicates the book to “all those managers who eat the scrambled eggs to help their organization work like a cow.” That requires some explanation.

Scrambled Eggs

The first story tells of an experience he had on the soon to be defunct Eastern Airlines (they went bankrupt in 1991). He was served some awful scrambled eggs. After complaining to the flight attendant, she said, “I know. We keep telling them; they won’t listen.”

Management is not eating the eggs. They’re not running the business; they’re reading financial statements.

The financial analysts were certainly reading those statements, and probably explaining the airline’s problems in terms of load factors and the like. Don’t believe a number of it. Eastern Airlines went belly up because of those scrambled eggs.

And here’s the kicker:
Some years later, after telling this story to a group of managers, one of them, from IBM, came up to tell me another story. The CEO of Eastern Airlines came rushing in at the last minute for a flight, he said. First class was full, so they bumped a paying customer to put him where I guess he had become accustomed. Apparently feeling guilty, he reportedly made his way to Economy Class (no mention was made of him having to ask where it was). There he apologized to the customer, introducing himself as the CEO of the airline. The customer replied: “Well, I’m the CEO of IBM.”

The lesson is that managers/leaders (both sides of the same coin) need to get out and run their businesses. They need a dose of reality. “Managing is not about sitting where you have become accustomed,” writes Mintzberg. “It’s about eating the scrambled eggs.”

Work Like a Cow

In section 2 we learn about the cow. It comes as a reaction to a clever and insightful 1995 advertisement from SAP. In the ad the copy reads: “This is an organizational chart that shows the different parts of a cow. In a real cow the parts are not aware that they are parts. They do not have trouble sharing information. They smoothly and naturally work together, as one unit. As a cow. And you have only one question to answer. Do you want your organization to work like a chart? Or a cow?”

SAP 1995 Advertisement
This is a very serious question. Ponder it. Cows have no trouble working like cows. Nor, for that matter, does each of us, physiologically at least. So why do we have so much trouble working together socially? Are we that confused about organizing, for example all this obsession with charts?

Say “organization” and we see leadership. That’s why those charts are so ubiquitous. They tell us who is supposed to lead whom but not who does what, how, and with whom. Why are we so fixated on formal authority?

Do you know why re-organizing is so popular? Because it’s so easy. Shuffle people on paper and the world is transformed—on that paper at least. Imagine instead if people were shuffled around offices to make new connections?

Other Lessons

A few of the stories take a concept or two out of context to make a point, but the point is well taken. Here are a few lessons gathered from the pages of Bedtime Stories for Managers:
Successful managers are flawed—everyone is flawed—but their particular flaws are not fatal under the circumstances. Reasonable human beings find ways to live with one another’s reasonable flaws.

I’m not one for magic bullets in management, but if one prescription could improve the practice of managing monumentally, here it is: give voice in selection processes to people who have been managed by the candidates. Please sleep on this bedtime story. Advertisement

While mass movements can raise awareness of the need for social renewal, it is social initiatives, usually developed by small groups in local communities, that start much of the renewing.

Managerial effectiveness has to be judged and not just measured.

Conventional management education—namely in MBA programs—tilts heavily to the use of analysis, namely evidence, and away from experience. And when some of these people eventually make their way into management, all too often they manage as they were taught, by favoring evidence over experience, managing by the numbers, and relying on techniques.

Being born to a business genius, let alone inheriting the wealth of one, has never made anyone a business genius.

Do we need more globalization on this globe? How about more worldliness in this world? Global implies a certain cookie-cutter conformity—everyone subscribing to the same set of beliefs, techniques, and styles. Is this any way to foster the innovation needed by so many organizations? We should be celebrating managers’ their uniqueness, not their sameness. [A colleague asked a driver in Bangalore, India] “How can you possibly drive in this traffic?” He replied nonchalantly: “I just join the flow.” Welcome to the worldly mindset! That’s not chaos out there, but another world, with a logic of its own.

I said, “I never set out to be the best. It’s too low a standard. I set out to be good.” This was not meant to sound arrogant: I was not claiming to be better than the best, just beside the very quest for being the best. I meant that the best work is done by people who compete with themselves, not with anyone else. They do their best.

The stories serve best as sort of a reality check. Good night.

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Teaching Leadership Managers Can Be Leaders

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:51 AM
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Scaling Leadership

Scaling Leadership

THE INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCE of leading in an increasingly complex world is that we will have developmental gaps in our leadership. As our context change, we have to grow with it.

In the words of Robert Anderson and William Adams, authors of Scaling Leadership, “We are running an Internal Operating System that is not complex enough for the complexity we face. This is our Development Gap.” We are often pushed to our limits. The solution is to scale our leadership.
Leadership must learn to scale itself, but not any kind of leadership will do. We need much more of the kind of leadership that is capable of scaling innovation, adaptability, sustainability, agility, and engagement as its growth strategy. Scaling leadership is about becoming the kind of leader that scales the conscious leadership capable of creating what matters most of all the stakeholders it serves.

So just what is this “conscious leadership?” To answer this question, they asked 50,000 leaders and employees worldwide, “What kind of leadership, if it existed, would enable the organization to thrive in its current marketplace and into the future?”

The answer is displayed in the Optimal Leadership Circle Profile below. The top half of the circle are the 18 Creative Competencies that lead to leadership effectiveness. The bottom half is comprised of 11 Reactive Tendencies. These are our go-to strengths and behaviors we rely on when we feel under pressure. The reactive tendencies often get the job done but at a cost—disenchanted and disengaged employees and stakeholders that feel bullied or let down.

Scaling Leadership Leadership Circle Profile

In order to scale your leadership, the right conditions must exist. First and foremost, we have to consciously move our leadership from reactive to creative. Also a Generative Tension or Strategic Intent must exist as leaders take responsibility for and establish a development agenda for themselves and their organization. Finally, as represented by the top half of the inner circle, four more conditions must exist: Relating or Deep Relationship, Self-Awareness and Authenticity or Radically Human, Systems Awareness or Big Picture, and Achieving or Purposeful Achievement.

How do you show up as a leader? Creative? Reactive?

In their study, High-Creative leaders consistently demonstrated the following 10 strengths. Interestingly, the first four represent the areas with the highest leadership gaps—areas where leaders need the most work.
  • Strong People Skills and Interpersonal Capability: Caring, compassionate, big-hearted; respects people, connects well with others and makes them feel valuable.
  • Good Listener: Attentive and present when people are presenting their views.
  • Team Builder: Unites, engages, and supports the team’s efforts. Builds involvement and consensus, supports team members, and advocates for team initiatives.
  • Leads by Example: Good role model. “Walks the talk.”
  • Visionary: Communicates a compelling vision of the future that fosters alignment. Knows and sets strategic direction and business plans that allow teams/organizations to thrive.
  • Personable / Approachable: Accessible, available, open-door, friendly, likable, easy to work with, and good sense of humor.
  • Passion and Drive: Shows passion, enthusiasm, drive, and a strong commitment to the success of the organization and to personal success.
  • Develops People: Shares experience and provides mentoring, coaching, career planning, and development experience to ensure growth and development.
  • Empowers People: Shares leadership and encourages people to take ownership, find their own solutions, make their own decisions, and learn from mistakes. Trusts people’s ability and their willingness to follow the direction provided.
  • Positive Attitude: Optimistic, upbeat; has a can-do attitude.

It’s not surprising that these were the most strongly endorsed strengths. People perform better when respected and your leadership is perceived as better when you are respectful. As Bill Adams father told him growing up, “How you get results is as important as the results themselves.” It’s easy to forget in a world where the end seems to justify the means.

In the authors consulting work they have found that when leaders derail it’s because while they are very talented, they are highly reactive. They underuse their High-Creative strengths. Often what got them where they are, is no longer working in their new leadership context.

Their research indicates areas that all leaders need to consider and develop where necessary. But of course, simply following a list is a bit simplistic. Or to say because I am relational, I’m a better leader. Because I’ve got good people skills, I’m naturally effective. We all come to leadership with strengths and weakness. Learning to honestly face where you need work and where you need to temper your strengths, is the sign of a great leader. Scaling leadership is a good place to begin the journey.

In conclusion, the authors state that there’s more. Creative Leadership alone isn’t going to get the job done. “No matter how you cut it, we are up against a level of escalating complexity and disruptive change that requires, and will continue to require, an unprecedented level of innovation, adaptability, scalability, sustainability, resilience, collective intelligence, engagement, empowerment, agility, systemic thinking, and global cooperation.”

What we need they term Integral Leadership “supported by a Self-Transforming Internal Operating System in some depth.” That’s to say we are no longer leading for ourselves but for a purpose larger than ourselves that comes through in everything we do. It means we go deeper to develop our character—who we are.
We no longer sponsor change in the organization, we radically, humanly, and in deep relationship lead change from the perspective that the system is mirroring the function and dysfunction in us, individually and collectively. We project our shadow less and less, and therefore, we can engage conflict without reactively making the other into an enemy or adversary. We experience others as much like us, a work in progress, and we engage in dialogue from a place of listening, learning, compassion, and strength.

Humility. Empathy. Faith. Grace.

We are more alike than different. Integral leadership sees through our differences “to a deeper unity that we all share—that we all are. We are all each other.”

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You can learn more about the Leadership Circle Profile and take your free self-assessment on the Leadership Circle website.

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Humble Leadership What Happens Now

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:16 AM
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Simple Techniques to Overcome Negative Emotions When Negotiating with Others

Overcome Negative Emotions

A KEY PREDICTOR of entrepreneurial success is a leader’s ability to manage relationships with investors, employees, and customers. Relationships are negotiations. We all negotiate. How well we learn to negotiate can be the difference between success and failure.

Entrepreneurs who can negotiate well are better equipped to deal with the challenges they face in relationships significant to their business.

Here we will look at one aspect of successful negotiating: our emotions.

The mishandling of emotions – especially tension and mistrust – is a major source of errors when negotiating. It can lead to miscommunication, misjudging the other party’s motives, inability to reach consensus, and more. In our book Entrepreneurial Negotiation, we explain that the best way to diffuse negative emotions is to prevent them from escalating in the first place.

Diffuse Tension Before It Escalates

At the beginning of every negotiation, there is a natural tension in the air. The higher the stakes, the higher the tension level. To diffuse it, open by conveying your sincerity and warmth with a handshake, eye contact, and a smile, as appropriate.

Other ways of reducing tension in the first few minutes are sharing airtime while projecting genuine interest, showing respect and asking for agreement on some small initial ground-rule (e.g., use of first or last names, seating arrangements, etc.).

A 2004 experiment using sociometric badges in a mock negotiation (between a corporate vice president and a middle manager) demonstrated that “tone of voice” used by participants in the first five minutes predicted more than a third of the variation in the objective and subjective outcome of a negotiation. They also found that turn-taking dynamics (who speaks when) had a strong correlation with the subjective value levels reported after the negotiation.

Still, other studies showed that similarity, also called affiliation, is a primary factor that influences personal human connection – the building of rapport between individuals. Rapport reduces stress and is the best predictor of success in relationships. As a negotiation proceeds to more difficult topics, good negotiators maintain a relaxed tone (with the appropriate level of seriousness) while respecting their counterpart’s autonomy and status.

The Power of Humor, Stories, and Metaphors

Several additional tools that are often used to reduce stress are storytelling, metaphors, and humor. The appropriate use of humor, especially, can serve as a release valve for negative emotions such as anxiety, suspicion, and anger, and can create room for people to put things in perspective. Humor can also serve as a way of acknowledging the absurdity of the moment, where parties have inadvertently locked themselves into extreme positions. Humor does need to be used carefully. If a party doesn’t understand an attempt at humor, they may be left wondering if the joke is on them. If they feel as if they are the target (or that they are being taken lightly), it will most likely make the situation worse. Finding the right balance between humor and serious intent can make it easier to deal with escalating competitive behavior.

Stories have the power to convey an important idea, stimulate a strong emotional response, and allow a release of political or interpersonal tension. They help to shift everyone’s focus from the tension in the room to the tension in the story. At the conclusion, when the story’s tension is finally released – both the listeners and the storyteller experience a stress-reducing feeling. Our brains react to stories the same way they react to true events.

Using metaphors is also effective. For example, in negotiating the break-up of a business, framing the situation as a pile of cash to be divided creates a “divide the pie” metaphor. This is likely to induce a win-lose mindset. Using a story about a “cash cow” might shift the focus to a living creature that cannot be divided, but if taken care of will produce dividends over time. This second framing metaphor would more likely induce a collaborative discussion of how to share responsibilities and allocate future profits.

Apologize Quickly and Sincerely

If you realize you have done something that has hurt the other side, you should issue an apology immediately. It is rarely to your advantage to provoke feelings of fear, anger or resentment. A sincere apology can often restore a better working context. Apology is a social ritual that shows respect and empathy to the offended person. While you cannot undo a mistake, an apology can help the other side move on. This is the opposite of what happens when a person is emotionally triggered. Experiments show that receiving an apology reduces heart rate, breathing rate, sweat levels, facial tension, and blood pressure.

Apologizing quickly and sincerely shows that you take responsibility for your actions. On your side, it can also prevent a buildup of remorse or shame caused by the fact that you hurt someone or simply as a result of having made an error. It is not easy, and quite humbling to apologize, but when done correctly it projects the inner strength of someone who is confident and aware of the feelings of others.

Even when you apologize immediately, don’t rush things. It takes time for impacted emotions to wash over the other side. The body needs time to recover and to switch from fear, anger, and anxiety to empathy and compassion. Be present and attentive. Accept the silence as OK, and don’t move on prematurely. You may need to repeat your apology, since it may not have been fully heard or absorbed the first time. Focus on your counterpart’s reactions. Wait for them to indicate that it is OK to continue.

Some mistakes are minor, and it will be easier for the other side to recover from these, even without an apology. Some will require both sides to cool off before continuing. After you have apologized and demonstrated your sincere intent to remedy the situation, you may want to revisit the item that was on the agenda when you made the mistake initially. Ask for a “do-over.” This is the ultimate “detect and respond” response: an “on-the-spot” apology that is accepted, coupled with permission to return to the negotiation.

Negotiations are fraught with tensions. Learning to reduce tension and negative emotions creates a better outcome for everyone.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Samuel Dinnar and Lawrence Susskind, co-authors of Entrepreneurial Negotiation: Understanding and Managing the Relationships that Determine Your Entrepreneurial Success. They are both experts in negotiation and mediation, teach at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and at MIT, and have experience as entrepreneurs, executives, consultants, and mediators. To learn more, visit www.entrepreneurialnegotiation.com.

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